Fangirl Post: Michael Chabon

First, I should probably apologize for letting almost A MONTH go by with no posts.  I have no excuse for ignoring all (two) of you fine people for that long.  I have, maybe, one-week’s worth of excuse – I wrote my first official book review for Bookbrowse.com two weeks ago!  I will blog about The Children’s Book after that review is published, and put a link up so you all can check it out.  With any luck, my bio on their site will encourage two more people to find me out here in the interwebs.  Won’t I be special then?  Now, to business.

Michael Chabon (pronounced Shay-bon, as I learned this week) is a crazy good writer.  I first saw the name after watching the film, Wonder Boys (starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, and the ever-fabulous Robert Downey, Jr.), which was based on his second (published) novel (which is about the experience of writing his second [unpublished] novel, which sucked hard-core).  I loved the movie and (as usual) went looking for more quality entertainment by the same guy.  His first novel (Mysteries of Pittsburgh) was good, but it was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay that made me a die-hard fan.  Not only great writing and superb story-telling, but a comic-book-history theme and the obligatory gay sub-plot!  But don’t take my word for it – he won a Pulitzer for that one.  I’ve since read all his novels and a few of his short stories, eagerly awaiting each new gem.

This is a writer who just gets better and better.  Some of his latest stuff (The Final Solution, Gentlemen of the Road) has been short novellas  with great story – but the language is better than great, it is extraordinary.  I just want to dive in and swim around in the words and phrases and sentences forever and ever.  And he’s only two years older than me (and apparently happily married <sigh>).  He should have a few more decades to be cranking this stuff out.

One of the dozens of reasons I moved to Portland was because there was so much cool stuff going on here.  Case in point – a reading by Michael Chabon! Free at Powell’s!  His new book!  Book-geek heaven hosts book-geek-idol extraordinaire! And did I mention it was free?  And less than five miles from my house? At the coolest bookstore on the planet? (sorry Title Wave,  but it’s true).   Of course, I was going.  But, I must admit I was worried. What if he was lame in person? What if he spoke like that guy on the Clear-Eyes commercials?  What if he was stiff and boring and ruined my future reading pleasure with his lameness?  I shudder to think.

Thankfully, he was everything I hoped he would be.  I’d seen photos, so I knew he was reasonably attractive (one worry down, dozens to go).   But he was funny and humble and sexy and teasing and witty, and human while being utterly adorable.  And he really did look a lot like Michael Douglas did in the film.  He read two essays from his new book which were marvelously written and slyly thought-provoking while making us laugh out loud (me and my 200 best book-geek friends).  All in all, a perfect first-run of the author visit circuit at Powell’s, and confirmation that my author-love is not misplaced.

This week – Barbara Ehrenreich comes to town.

A slow reading week…

I haven’t read much in the last week or two, and before that was not reading much that really excited me (other what I’ve already posted).  I have allowed myself to become addicted to a television show (Grey’s Anatomy) and have been watching it on DVD – between that, work and having a life, not much reading going on. Pretty unusual.

I saw the movie Watchmen when it was in the theater (the best friend is a huge Jeffery Dean Morgan fan, and I am a big comic book geek).  We were both horribly disappointed and irritated that we’d wasted money and time on such a bloody, violent, depressing and (most important to me) pointless flick. I can do without the blood and violence, but that wouldn’t be enough to turn me off of a movie.  And I am fine with depressing and meaningful, or pointless and fun.  But depressing and pointless – well, that’s a load of crap.  I had been meaning to read Watchmen because it was highly lauded by critics – surprising for a graphic novel.  After seeing the movie, I was compelled to read the book and find out what the movie had screwed up on.

Alan Moore’s graphic novel is much, much better than the movie based upon it (a movie that Moore refused to be affiliated with because he didn’t believe it would work).  But I still didn’t like it very much. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t seen the movie, I would have had a different reading of the book, but it’s too late for that now.  The book has three or four sub-plots that are completely missing from the movie and added much to the point Moore seemed to be trying to make – that you cannot do evil things and not become evil.  The comic book is as violent and bloody as the film, but in comic-book form, the impact of the violence is more cerebral and less disgusting.  The book was compelling (while the film dragged on) and while still be depressing, at least was not pointless.  There is a lot of irony and contrasting of stories that is completely missing in the movie.  The character of Dr. Manhattan is much more developed in the book, and there is some fascinating stuff about the nature of time and experience that adds much to the backbone of Moore’s concept.  All in all, the book was enjoyable, if not something I would highly recommend.

I also read Kaye Gibbon’s The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster – follow-up to her first hit novel Ellen Foster. Ellen is a girl who’s lost her mother and somehow manages to stay driven and positive in the face of abuse, crushing poverty and racism in the South.  Both books are written in the first person.  I remembered liking Ellen Foster, so I picked up the sequel (written a decade or two later) when I saw it for $3.  TLAAMbEF was not the powerhouse the first novel was, but those who loved Ellen from the first book would probably enjoy seeing what came next.

I recently got a gig reviewing books for a newsletter/website called BookBrowse.com – soon I’ll get paid (a tiny bit of money) to review new books!  My first book is The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt – and it’s due in two weeks, so I had better get back to reading soon!

Bad Bev

I’ve been a big slacker lately when it comes to keeping my blog up-to-date – partly because it’s no longer a part of my real job and partly because it was making reading feel like an obligation – like I was a bad girl if I didn’t blog about what I was reading.

Not reading is absolutely not an option – that would be akin to being cheerful in the morning or not drinking tea.  But not blogging – hell, that’s as easy as making toast.  To add to the fun, writing has always been a weird thing for me.  I love it, but the avoidance maneuvers I have in place make it difficult to be disciplined about getting it done – especially if there is no real ‘deadline.’  School papers, magazine articles, cover letters – these all come with built-in deadlines that force me to sit in front of the computer and shift gears from the Verbal Bev to the Written Bev. And the Written Bev is a happy girl, it’s just the gear-shifting that is a significant speed-bump.

I know this is yet another thing that – as a supposedly-mature adult – I should be doing.  That is, living up to my promises (not blogging; one need not be mature nor an adult to blog, and many a mature adult has made the cut without a blog to their name, phew!).  And I’m pretty good at living up to my promises and responsibilities – except when they are promises to myself, and responsibilities that affect only me.  No one gets fired if I don’t write, my ‘A’ is not in jeopardy if I go 10 days without updating my blog.  I just have to listen to the increasingly-irritated voice in my head that says I’m a loser for not doing it.  It’s the same voice that yells when I send birthday presents late and don’t call my mother.  I can ignore a certain level of bitching, but when the volume gets loud, something has to be done (and we all know I’m not going to call my mother).

So, to recap some things I’ve read lately – that I’ve decided in my all-powerful position as The-Boss-of-Me do not require a full write-up on this here fabulous blog:

I read the entire series of The Chronicles of the Cheysuli by Jennifer Roberson, borrowed from a fellow sci-fi fan and infinitely enjoyable.  The books tell the story of a magical race (the Cheysuli, of course) who have been persecuted and lost many of their powers. If they can fulfill the multi-generational prophesy, there will be peace and a return of powers they’ve lost.    No deep-thinking required here – like dessert for the hard-working brain.  The first book and the last two books were the best (there are eight total).

I re-read Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint.  This is a two-book compilation of Jack the Giant-Killer and Drink Down the MoonJoK is a fun re-telling of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale in a modern urban setting.  Not his greatest stuff, but – again – a good read.

I have also read The Book of Illusion and Outliers, but those deserve a space all their own, so look for them soon.

I apologize to those oodles of faithful readers out there who have come recently to BoB and been disappointed – but I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  I may be a slacker, but I’m not a liar.  Happy Reading!