I hadn’t heard of Michael Chabon until last year, when I happened across a New York Times profile of Jack Vance, which quoted Mr. Chabon as someone whose opinion was of importance. Chabon spoke well of Vance, and I took note of his name. Some casual research turned him up as an award-winning and well-respected author. So when Open Road Media had a good sale, I picked up one of Chabon’s short story collections.
The collection turns out to be ‘older’ – from 1991. Perhaps that explains my reaction, but I presume that these are also the stories with which Mr. Chabon made his mark. Some of them were first published in the New Yorker, and certainly many of the stories have that New Yorker feel – slice of life stories in which nothing much really happens. I’m afraid it’s not a style that’s particularly appealing to me, and I found myself highly disappointed by the collection.
The book is composed of two parts – the first, ‘A Model World’, of unrelated stories, and the second, ‘The Lost World’, of stories about Nathan Shapiro. The latter are stronger, but largely because in neither part do the stories ever really reach a meaningful completion, and the Nathan series at least offers a feeling of (disconnected) growth and development. Having read the stories, I’m a bit puzzled as to why Chabon made such a splash. I found the writing to be generally good, but not in any way outstanding. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, though there were some I found interesting. Most of the stories left me with a distinct feeling of ‘so what?’, and while they weren’t bad, I can’t say I’m interested to pursue Mr. Chabon’s work any further.