Sunday, April 16, 2017
Review:"Moonglow" by Michael Chabon
Wonderboys, Michael Chabon’s second novel, is still one of my favorite books and the quintessential campus novel, both funny and enlightening. It is so good in fact that I don’t think he has equaled it since, even as his career has skyrocketed to the top tier of notable American writers. Some of them have been good, such as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (his most famous novel) and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and some of been slogs, like his debut novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and both of his short story collections. And while it still falls short, I’m happy that his most recent novel, last year’s Moonglow is his best since that second novel, and I don’t think it is much of a surprise that, like Wonderboys, it is startling personal with little bits of Chabon’s trademark whimsy peppered throughout. It recounts the maybe true maybe not tale of Chabon’s grandfather, opening dramatically with him assaulting his boss and throwing an intercom out of the window, hitting and wounded Czech delegate. The delegate’s reaction to the incident really describes in a nutshell how tragedy and slapstick intertwine in the life of his grandfather and really all of Chabon’s fiction. One cannot exist without the other: they play off each other, inform one another and somehow create a full life. The tragedies of his grandfather’s life, such as the guilt and anger he feels over his time in WWII, where he failed to apprehend someone he believed to be a war criminal, his perceived failings as a parent and a husband to damaged woman, all have a certain humorous poetry about them, and the character’s will to endure makes these happenings anything but grim. I’m keeping a lot of the plot details a secret, since that is some of the joy of the novel: entering this world fresh, with the steady, skilled hands of a gentle master to guide you.