Monday, January 31, 2005

7. Werewolves in Their Youth

by Michael Chabon

Along with Ray Bradbury and Nick Hornby, Michael Chabon ranks on my list of favorite living authors. Even though I’ve only read two of his books, having read those two I know that I’ll be likely to read anything else that he’ll write. I first came to know the author through Wonder Boys, a book that I read after watching the movie (both of which I love, equally and separately). I’m always amazed by authors that manage to craft a lengthy story, filled with lively characters and a tight plot, and manage to do it without sacrificing the quality of their writing. With Wonder Boys, Chabon did this wonderfully and whenever I finish reading the book – I’ve read it twice – I feel the kind of satisfaction that comes only with having been involved in an engaging story that leaves you wondering about the fate of the characters after you’ve closed the cover. Chabon did this again with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, if to a somewhat lesser extent due mostly to the fact that I simply liked the premise of Wonder Boys more than that of the latter novel, but I still found those six hundred pages worthwhile and I couldn’t wait to find out where Sam and Joe would end up.

So, when I went to Unabridged Books and saw Werewolves in Their Youth, a collection of the author’s short stories, amongst the sale books, I picked it up without so much as a glance at the pages inside. True to form, Chabon delivers in his stories, creating the same kind of fleshed out characters and storylines that populate his novels. In one story we get a man and a woman struggling to deal with the marriage that has left them childless until the rape that results in pregnancy, which the wife surprisingly carries to term. In another we get a fatherless child and a sonless man bonding over pennies and baseball. And in a final story we get a little surprise for those of us Wonder Boys fans – a story penned by Grady Tripp’s ersatz mentor August Van Zorn. There’s the same full-bodied style of writing I’ve come to expect from this writer as he describes a girl with, “Several ounces of sterling were involved, and there was an unmistakable promise, not just in this but in something halting and surreptitious in her walk, of hidden posts, clasps, and metal rings concealed elsewhere on her body.” I’m amazed at how, with this one sentence, he manages not just to describe the character’s physical being, but her personality and the hopes of the main character as well. That’s some writing, right there.

But you know what? I missed the length. There are few writers that can keep me engaged for more than three hundred pages, and since Chabon is one of them, that’s kind of what I want from him. I want the long story with the plot that twists and deepens and the details that make three days last three weeks without my noticing. I’m not saying I wouldn’t read another collection of his short stories, because at this point I’m sure I’ll read anything Mike – Mr. Chabon? Sir? May I call you Mike? – does, but it’ll be his novels that I’ll look forward to. It’ll be those that I’ll love for the many days I spend reading them and the many days afterward that I spend remembering them fondly.

Stars: Three


Blogger Doppelganger said...

Exxie, have you read *Summerland*? I found it in a used book store last summer and was about a quarter of the way into it before I even realized it was a kids' novel. It's a kind of adventure fantasy about baseball, believe it or not, and it has plenty of plot twists and turns. I enjoyed it, and I don't even LIKE baseball (nor does the main character, and he says so in the very first line of the book, which was what sucked me in). It sort of reminded me of Stephen King's *The Talisman* (an underappreciated book, IMHO), but without being so dark.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Exxie said...

Ah...see, I've thought about reading Summerland, but the fact that it's about baseball has always stopped me. People I know who have read it say the same thing you do, that you don't have to be into baseball to enjoy it. I think I'll eventually pick it up.

9:29 AM  

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