Monday, July 20, 2009

The latest author to wow me

The first author I remember who 'wow'-ed me enough to make me want to read all of his novels was Arthur Hailey. It was far enough back in time that my memory of that older me is misty and likely unreliable. In more recent times, the author who brought the most ecstasy to my reading has undoubtedly been Salman Rushdie. The first writer whom I could truly claim (for a few years) to be my 'favorite'. Since then, there have been a few more who have, in my first introduction to them, made me hunger to read all of their work. The two most recent ones were Kazuo Ishiguro and (earlier this year) J. M. Coetzee.

Last week I started reading a book that made me feel, after the first 100 pages, that not only do I absolutely love this book, I am so enraptured by the author that I can't wait to get hold of all his other books and read them too. The book I am reading is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

Michael Chabon is not a prolific author by any means. Since his arrival on the literary scene in 1988, he has written all of six novels, including Kavalier and Clay in 2001. Browsing the aisles in different bookstores, it has been inevitable that I run across these books of his. However, one thing has always stopped me from plunging into one of them - their almost overwhelming verbosity.

Chabon has a busy and intricate writing style. Almost the polar opposite of the other most satisfying introduction I had this year (Coetzee), Chabon uses his words to create exquisite, elaborate, credulity stretching, yet immensely gratifying imagery with his words. To read him with any success at all, you need to surrender yourself completely. If you are the kind that loses patience if the subject of a chapter doesn't show itself in the first paragraph or two, you are not going to appreciate Chabon. Often I am a page and a half into a chapter and still don't know quite what he is talking about. And then, with some deft manouever, Chabon pulls an as-yet-unseen curtain off, and suddenly, everything I read so far falls into place. Stroke me somebody, I want to purr!

I have always been a sucker for metaphors. Can't get enough of them. Metaphors and puns, probably my favorite literary devices. (Which explains the Rushdie, among other things). Chabon is full of surprising, twisted, interesting metaphors. Sample this: Talking of Mrs. Kavalier, the mother of one of the protagonists - "She was four inches shorter than her diminutive husband, sinewy, grim-jawed, her eyes the pale gray of rainwater pooled in a dish left on the window ledge." Or this: With Joe Kavalier overhearing Rosa Saks standing with a group at a party - "Joe could not really understand what she was telling them, but it appeared to be a story that reflected poorly on her own judgment - she was blushing and grinning at the same time - and it unquestionably ended with the work 'fuck'. She tugged on the word, drawing it out to several times its usual length. She wound it all the way around her in two or three big loops and reveled in it as if it were a luxuriant shawl. 'Fuuuuuuuuck'.



  1. I haven't read Chabon, but did feel the same way about Ishiguro maybe 10 years back. read 2 very good books from him, the third one I have never been able to finish!

    have reread the first two though - i like them so much more as i am growing older and as the world around me changes more and more.

  2. Hmmm. Not sure I will be reading any of Chabon's books soon. But it sounds like I should try Coetzee.

  3. Stroke me someone. I want to purr. ROTFL. Classic!