The main reason I haven’t read his realist short stories is Chabon’s own fault in a way. In an introduction to a McSweeney’s genre story collection he edited, he seemed to all but call those stories boring. I’ve been primed to not like a book before, but never by its author! In the afterward to this, Chabon clarifies that he still stands by those stories, which was a relief. Still, Chabon’s enthusiasm for genre work was evident in Kavalier and Clay. One of the things that drew me to him was that he was an excellent mainstream writer who was making the argument that genre fans and authors have been making for years, that every genre had great work in it, and just because something was not SF or Crime or whatever, it wasn’t automatically better than works in those genres. He put his money where his mouth was with a fantasy YA novel, a novella in the manner of Arthur Conan Doyle and an amazing alternate history noir. And here he continued that trend with a book that is basically sword and sorcery without the sorcery.
(As an aside, that same McSweeney’s collection Chabon edited had a story called How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became A Famous Oklahoma Lawman which was my introduction to one of my favorite writers, Elmore Leonard. As much as I like Chabon for his own work, I’m as grateful for the literary introduction.)
The novel begins with a great fakeout, which I will try not to spoil. The story concerns two jewish bandits (Gentlemen of the Road) one African and the other Frankish who get caught up in a civil war. The serialized structure gives the book tremendous energy. I have to admit to having not read Fritz Leiber or Michael Moorcock who were the template for this type of story, but this made me more likely to pick up some Moorcock at least. This is far from my top Chabon book, but it is very good. A fast paced well written adventure story that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Owned But Previously Unread 2020 53/75