Du Bois Inspires Chabon’s Wanderlust

What book has most triggered Michael Chabon’s wanderlust? William Pène Du Bois’ Twenty-One Balloons, according to The New York Times.

“No trip I have since taken in my life has ever measured up to the ideal presented therein by Prof. W. W. Sherman’s journey, in the custom-fitted luxury of his impossible balloon house, to the nonexistent, never-existed, long-vanished island of Krakatoa,” Chabon told The Times. “In fact, I have equaled him only in my occasional bouts of misanthropy.”

Chabon Calls Early Work Misogynistic

Two of Michael Chabon’s earliest works reflected “Millerite misogyny,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning author says in this month’s Details.

In his monthly column for the men’s magazine, Chabon says readers “can see clear traces of [misogyny] in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and its mournful ghost in my short story ‘Millionaires.'”

Chabon says his early writing was influenced by Henry Miller, author of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, who Chabon calls “my great literary hero from the age of 16 to about 19.”

“If they are women, they are his cunts,” Chabon says of Miller’s characterization of women in his books.

Misogyny is natural to young men, Chabon says.

“Because I was bright and a would-be artiste, my own misogyny wore a beret, as it were, and quoted Nietzche,” Chabon says. “But it was just — and I don’t mean to excuse it with that adverb — garden-variety late-teenage, homosocial misogyny as practiced by young men all over the world.”

A M.F.A. fiction workshop at the University of California, Irvine, where more than half of the students were women, broke Chabon of much of his misogyny, the author says.

“I want to stress that what followed was not just some rude awakening or shakedown cruise where I tried to get these women to sleep with me and one by one they shot me down,” Chabon says. “Okay, so there was some of that, but the fact of the matter is that I had been on a losing streak with women for a long time — at least it felt like a long time — and had already begun to see reflected, in the eyes of the some of the girls I had gotten nowhere with, a certain weariness with, or distrust of, or even distaste for, my displays of Milleresque big-souled callowness.”

Chabon’s column appears in March’s Details. Chabon typically reposts these on his Web site two months after publication.