Chabon and Crime

Michael Chabon was nominated for an Edgar this year, for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. He didn’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.

I’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, can’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 aren’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 “Jews with swords” 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 McSweeney’s, it’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 I’m afraid Michael’s done it again, another effortless masterpiece. His writing is the sort of thing I look at and try to pick apart—how would I do that sentence differently? I’d change this and I’d certainly loosen up that, and… 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 doesn’t regard crime fiction as a ghetto, where Literary Writers may drop in for a visit but wouldn’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, it’s nice to have one of the Big Boys say the same thing, occasionally.

There’s an excerpt in the LA times of the book’s introductory essay.

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  1. Roxanne on May 20, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I discovered The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon at my local library booksale. For those who have not read it, I don’t want to give anything away. I will just say that I love this book. Just love it. And deplore it. That book brought out many strong emotions in me; I can’t look at it on my shelf without experiencing sadness and a tightness in my chest. The book made that much of an impact on me.

    Chabon’s ideas and words are idiosyncratic.I imagine he must be quite the character in person, his ideas are so off-center and compelling. His modus operandi is so different from my own, sitting down with one of his books is like visiting another country. How cool that you get to know him in RL.

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