Michael Chabon, Summerland

So I picked up this book in the UVic bookstore: "Summerland?," thought I. "Someone's written a fat novel about the Okanagan town of Summerland? Wait, no, that can't be right -- what would Michael Chabon have to do with a place Where The Spirit Of Summer Never Ends?"

Of course it wasn't about the Okanagan, but when I flipped to the first page and learned that it begins in the fictional locale of Clam Island, Washington, just off Tacoma, my literatures of the West Coast radar went off, and I had to buy it. Since it combines not just the West Coast but also fantasy, according to the back-cover blurb, and also baseball, which as any reader of W.P. Kinsella, David James Duncan, or Bernard Malamud knows is a mystical and glorious pursuit (if ONLY within the covers of a book or the images of a film), well, what was I going to do?

Reader, I finished it.

And it was fabulous. Honestly, about the most fun I've had with a book since I first encountered Jasper Fforde, and it revived the little ache I've long had about not yet reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Now that I've read one Chabon book, I'm diving headlong into some more of them, and I think K&C will be my first stop. Unless someone recommends otherwise?

Anyway, it's no Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, as the ad copy promises, but it's a nice melange of mythologies (First Nations, Homer, Americana, etc.) that's given a particular late-capitalist twist by virtue of its setting on a really carefully imagined West Coast island that still shows the scars of the WW2 internment of Japanese-Americans (and -Canadians, though that's not part of the book), of the active and passive assault against Native Americans and their ways of being, and of the ongoing pursuit of development that would leave no spot untouched. The real-world portions of the book work really well, with Chabon's 11-year-old heroes doing their best in a world largely populated by somehow damaged adults, and while the fantasy-world sections are worth the price of admission on their own, the pieces are integrated masterfully.

It's under the imprint of "Hyperion Paperbacks for Children," but don't believe it. Five hundred pages? And with this much good stuff? Put Harry Potter under the bed for a while, and get yourself a real book of fantasy.


Keith Talent said…
Do read K&C, it is marvellous. Better than The Yiddish Policemen's Union IMO, which is also good but quite different. I've recommended K&C to a couple of people who've both raved about it after reading it.
richard said…
Thanks, Keith -- it's on my shortlist now. Which is actually a pretty huge list, but at least it's on there!
Keith Talent said…
I know the feeling, I'm pretty sure I already have more books I want to read than I can read before I die and I keep finding more.

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