Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure - and the forces that work to destroy us.
In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother's home in Oakland, California, to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon's grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis of the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.
Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather". It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact - and the creative power - of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies.
A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the 20th century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines, and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy's Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.
From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York's Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of "the American Century", Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.
©2016 Michael Chabon (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"I see the hidden lovers, fates entangled like their bodies, waiting for release from the gravity that held them down all their lives."
- Michael Chabon, Moonglow
Fantastic. I needed to chew on this for a night, to stare at the moon, dream and fantasize about what I really wanted to say and write my panegyric in a delicate space after the book.
First, I sometimes wonder if there is a genre Chabon can't master with his metaphors, his exuberance and his fantasy? At this point, he could write a book centered on zoophilic and beastial erotica and I'd gladly plunk down the full-price cost AND read it. Anyway, last night as the stars blossomed and the moon swung up over the Superstition Mountains, I felt a tug of ideas, but I needed to let them seep, to swirl, to swim and sink into the dark side of my brain. Perhaps, I'm ready. Who knows?
I'm not sure if Chabon has even read Karl Ove Knausgård, but Chabon is doing something similar. He is playing with the structure of memoir, but it isn't memoir even exactly. It isn't a biography of his mother, grandmother, grandfather EXACTLY. It is family fan fiction. It is fictionalized memoir, an autobiographical novel.
Chabon, gives it up in his Author's Note:
"IN preparing this memoir, I hve stuck to the facts except when the facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it. Whenever liberties have been taken with names, dates, places, events, and conversations, or with the identities, motivations, and interrelationships of family members and historical personages, the reader is assured that they have been taken with due abandon."
There is a scene in the book where Chabon is describing his mother, playing with horses carved by her father. Through the act of narrowing her eyes, squinting, she was able to transform these carved toys into real horses as she played. THAT is what Chabon is doing. He is narrowing his eyes on his family's history. He is letting his imagination take the information he has and bend it, fill in the gaps, expand into an almost magical fancy. It really is a thing of wonder.
The real amazing thing too about this book, is it gives the read the license and permission to do the same thing to his/her own history. We as humans are natural myth-makers. Is Chabon doing anything different than his Jewish forefathers did with the Old Testament's great myths? The telling, and retelling of these "family" stories start to get bent into family folklore. Pieces are added and subtracted until a new story a new myth is constructed. It might not be straight and accurate according to carbon dating, sequences, or people. The ledgers might not quite ever balance, but at its heart ... these family stories/myths contain our BIG truths. They contain us and our humanity, both our ugly, painful, and grounded past, and our lofty dreams of moons, lovers and rockets.
The narrative meanders along with no discernible direction. This book reminds me of "A Soldier of the Great War," another meandering book of beautiful prose with no story that jumps out and grabs your interest. perhaps if I am able to get through the next 10 hours of Moonglow, I will find the point of the story. I like books that move back and forth through time, but this one is too disjointed.
Absolutely! I am a big fan of his previous works.
Nasal and boring
No. There isn't a story line to continue.
i hated to write this and perhaps I shouldn't have because I am unable to plow through the whole book. Chabon writes beautiful prose, but this book is disjointed to the point that I am unable to appreciate the story he is trying to tell.
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