Chabon and Crime
Michael Chabon was nominated for an Edgar this year, for The Yiddish Policemenâ€™s Union. He didnâ€™t win, although the book did win SciFi prizes, it being a cop story set in an alternate universe, so it was nice of him to leave a prize for someone else.
Iâ€™ve known Michael for some years, since both of us were regulars at the late, lamented San Francisco book festivals (And the question of why SF, a city that loves books, canâ€™t manage anything like the LA book fair is one that bothers many of us. But not here and now.) and we were both SF library Laureates at a dinner a few days before his Pulitzer was announced. I love him (and his wife, Ayelet Waldman, whom I see more often if not often enough), I love his writing (the two arenâ€™t always the case) and I always buy whatever he publishes. The Final Solution is a master work; Yiddish Policemen is a joy, and his â€œJews with swordsâ€ adventure, Gentlemen of the Road, is a gem.
So I was eager to see what he had to say in Maps and Legends, a collection of essays mostly concerning genre fiction, from Sherlock Holmes to comic books. And it being published by McSweeneyâ€™s, itâ€™s a pleasure to hold and play with, its multiple layers of cover and its solidity. (What a waste, to read this one on an e-book reader.)
And Iâ€™m afraid Michaelâ€™s done it again, another effortless masterpiece. His writing is the sort of thing I look at and try to pick apartâ€”how would I do that sentence differently? Iâ€™d change this and Iâ€™d certainly loosen up that, andâ€¦ Hmm, that rather loses the effect, I see. Well, what about..? And his ideas are just idiosyncratic enough to make you stop and think.
What I particularly enjoy, and appreciate, is that Michael doesnâ€™t regard crime fiction as a ghetto, where Literary Writers may drop in for a visit but wouldnâ€™t think of living. The debate over the merits of the mystery have been flogged to death, and I have no intention of addressing the topic now. Suffice it to say that those of us living on the inside have no problems with the idea of quality within genre writing. However, itâ€™s nice to have one of the Big Boys say the same thing, occasionally.
Thereâ€™s an excerpt in the LA times of the book’s introductory essay.