Conversations with Michael Chabon
by: Brannon Costello
Review by: Mark Palm
I used to hate Michael Chabon, and I wasn’t alone. When I was at the University of Pittsburgh just about every student in any of the writing programs felt the same way. We were jealous, because at the tender age of twenty-four Chabon and his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh were the toast of the literary world. Despite what our teachers, and everyone at Jay’s Book Stall said, we were convinced that he had to be a terrible person, and a worse writer. My enmity lasted until I read his novel. I figured that he was a pretty good writer. Each book since his first has been better, and better. I can easily say that he is now one of a handful of writers whose every work I eagerly anticipate.
Now after reading Conversations with Michael Chabon, edited by Brannon Costello, I can easily say that he seems like a decent person as well; affable, forthwrite, and exceptionally polite. The interviews in this book do throw some insight upon Mr. Chabon’s life and work, especially the two from the magazine Locus; and that is the rub. The two pieces that I mentioned are not even really interviews, but essays of a sort, written by Mr. Chabon. The other interviews, ranging from 1996 to 2014, are all entertaining, and insightful, but I never really got a sense of what the man, and his books, were really like.
That did not surprise me. Mr. Chabon’s works have embraced a huge variety of styles and genres, but the one thing that has remained a constant is his wonderful prose, and his enduring commitment to entertain. A lot of critics dismiss the latter impulse, but Nabokov placed aesthetic pleasure before anything else you could take away from any written work. So these interviews are entertaining, but rarely more than that. There is no way that a conversation can equal the dizzying flow and wonderfully odd yet apt metaphors of Mr. Chabon’s prose, Which is understandable. The best thing about this book is that it makes you want to go out and read Mr. Chabon’s books. Believe me, that is plenty. Listen to Mr. Costello, and start reading.