Chabon Lectures on Poe

Following the news that he’d been hired to revise the script for Disney’s John Carter of Mars, Michael Chabon took to Northwestern University on Monday to deliver a lecture on — what else — Edgar Allen Poe.

The Daily Northwestern reports that Chabon recited Poe’s poem “Ulalume,” “his rendition was more performance than presentation.” A blog maintained by three MFA graduates in Montana says Chabon then went on to discuss how to instill horror into writing. He also could relate to Poe, the Northwestern reports.

“Bookish, homely, clumsy, bright, friendless, arrogant and self-pitying – I was all those things at the same time,” Chabon said. “The tag of ‘nerd’ did not come into general use in the school corridors of my hometown until the following year and words like ‘geek’ or ‘fanboy’ or even, in its full derogatory richness, ‘loser’ remained years away from finding their way onto the ‘kick me’ sign I wore taped to my back.”

The Chicago Tribune, in an article previewing the lecture, asked Chabon why he chose to lecture on Poe.

“Well, it was either Poe or Robert Ludlum,” Chabon said. “In the end, I just pulled the trigger and picked Poe. [Laughs] I’m totally kidding. The writers I tend to like are the writers who meet you at any point you return to them. So, you know, when you read Poe when you’re a kid, you notice the obvious, surface appeal of Poe — a lot of the gothic horror and the extreme states of consciousness and the macabre imagery. But when I go to Poe now, at the age of almost 46, I’m a lot less interested in that sort of stuff now. When I go to Poe now, there’s the incredible sense of loss. The ache of loss that permeates Poe.”

The Tribune diverged from Poe to ask Chabon about other topics. The author says he thinks a Kavalier & Clay movie will “eventually” get made, despite past road bumps. Asked if he was worried if the Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie might give a new life to questions about his sexuality, Chabon said he “didn’t care.” The reporter then asked if he was “uncomfortable” being identified as a bisexual author.

“Yeah, well, uncomfortable because I’m not bisexual,” Chabon said. “Uncomfortable isn’t even the right word. It would be like if I was identified as a Mennonite novelist. To quote Seinfeld — not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not the case. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

Chabon Visits New York

This may shock some of my regular readers, but despite the fact that my Web site will celebrate its fifth year anniversary in six weeks, tonight was actually the first time I’ve ever actually met Michael Chabon or been to one of his readings. And so, for once, I get to give you the news first hand on what happened.

More than 150 people turned out to hear Chabon read from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union at a Barnes & Noble. The reading was part of a national tour promoting the paperback version of the hit novel about the frozen chosen.

Never having been to one of these before, it was interesting to see what people brought with them for signatures. I spied a guy with a mint condition copy of Untold Tales of Kavalier & Clay ready for Chabon’s John Hancock, and to my right and left were people who lugged every one of Chabon’s books with them. (As for me, I just brought a copy of — what else — Kavalier & Clay.)

A Q&A followed. Among the highlights:

On Who Is He Reading: Kelly Link. “Two great collections,” he said.

On People Who Call Yiddish Policemen’s Union Anti-Semetic: “I’m just such a philo-semite that it’s hard to get my mind around.”

On Advice for Young Writers: “Take it easy on yourself,” he says. “When you’re 20, 21, 22 and you think you want to become a writer and you are writing, you also have a tendency to feel guilty when you don’t write.” He was only 22 when he wrote Mysteries of Pittsburgh, he noted. “I probably could have had a lot more fun and still gotten going on the novel.”

On The Coen Brothers Directing the Yiddish Policemen Adaptation: “That sucks,” he said (sarcastically of course).