Understanding Michael Chabon

Understanding Michael Chabon

Understanding Michael Chabon

Understanding Michael Chabon

Synopsis

Pulitzer Prizewinning author Michael Chabon has emerged as one of the most daring writers of American fiction in the post-Pynchon era. Joseph Dewey examines how Chabon's narratives have sought to bring together the defining elements of the two principal expressions of the American narrative that his generation inherited: the formal extravagances of postmodernism and the compelling storytelling of psychological realism.Like the audacious, self-conscious excesses of Pynchon and his postmodern disciples, Dewey argues, Chabon's fictions are extravagant, often ironic, experiments into form animated by dense verbal and linguistic energy. As with the probing texts of psychological realism by Updike and his faithful, Chabon's fictions center on keenly drawn, recognizable characters caught up in familiar, heartbreaking dilemmas; enthralling storylines compelled by suspense, enriched with suggestive symbols; and humane themes about love and death, work and family, and sexuality and religion.Evolving over three decades, this hybrid fiction has made Chabon not only one of the most widely read composers of serious fiction of his guild but one of the most critically respected writers as well, thus positioning Chabon as a representative voice of the generation. Dewey's study, the first to examine the full breadth of Chabon's fiction from his landmark debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to his controversial 2012 best seller, Telegraph Avenue, places Chabon's fictional sensibility, for all its hipness, within what has been the defining theme of American literature since the provocative romances of Hawthorne and Melville: the anxious tension between escape and engagement; between the sweet, centripetal pull of the redemptive imagination as a splendid, if imperfect, engine of retreat and the harsh, centrifugal pull of real life itself, recklessly deformed by the crude handiwork of surprise and chance and unable to coax even the simplest appearance of logic.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. the series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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