Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reading List: The Final Solution

The Final Solution
by Michael Chabon

The last time I read Chabon I was burning away the last embers of one particular earthly purgatory, a terrible job that kept me in a constant state of misery, and my only reprieve was when I could steal some reading.  The book was Gentlemen of the Road, which was like Chabon's version of Salman Rushdie, and I'm amazed and grateful that I remember the book at all, and that's the grace of good reading.  The first time I read Chabon was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the love letter to the Golden Age of superheroes (and their creators) that geeks fell in love with at the start of the new millennium.  Along with a few other books (Wonder Boys, which was also an acclaimed movie, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh), Kavalier & Clay had made Chabon a beloved literary figure.  Amazingly, though, he quickly lost most of that support, both from critics and readers, the more he explored new territory, which included Gentlemen, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, and The Final Solution.  This may explain what happens to great writers like Rushdie and Pynchon and Charyn.  They write the vital works that fewer people are willing to champion, because they present challenges rather than simple narratives.  The Final Solution is a short work, and its name evokes the worst tragedy of the 20th century, and I think that may be why it was more or less the final nail in Chabon's coffin.  When you do what others are afraid of, you risk alienation.  But it doesn't mean you aren't doing great things.  And besides, this is what Melville experienced, and look where he is today.

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