Chabon Discusses Palin, Alaska

Michael Chabon, asked if John McCain was smart or stupid picking Sarah Palin for vice president, said “the answer is probably both more pathetic and more chutzpadich than either [choice] would imply.”

In a humorous interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, Chabon, who backs Barack Obama and whose Yiddish Policemen’s Union took place in Alaska, discussed his views of the state and the election. Alaska, he said, is “crazy beautiful” but also a “dark place, and not just because it was literally dark much of time.”

“Also, I found it (the place, not the people) hostile, and not just in the sense that wilderness is generally said to be hostile,” Chabon said. “I kept thinking of that bit from Twin Peaks, where the sheriff says, ‘There is something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want, a darkness, a presence.’ Almost everything humans have built there is unbelievably ugly. That might have something to do with the air of resentment given off by the underlying terrain.”

Asked if Obama had placated elderly Jewish fears about his potential election, Chabon said he wasn’t sure.

“The Israeli government, as you know, has squandered billions of shekels to date on one ill-starred placation program after another, with results that have been uniformly disappointing, leading it to issue the famous finding: You just can’t alter a kocker,” Chabon said. “But if anyone can do it, Obama can.”

Yiddish Policemen Wins Hugo

Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won the Hugo Award on Saturday for best novel.

It’s the second science-fiction related prize that the novel has nabbed since it was published last summer. In April, Chabon won the Nebula Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was nominated for an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America, but lost to John Hart’s Down River.

GalleyCat notes that while Yiddish Policemen isn’t the first book to win both the Hugo and Nebula, “it is arguably the first time that either award has been given to a book that was not published as a science fiction or fantasy novel.”

Cody’s Books Closes; Fave of Chabon’s

Cody’s Books, a Berkeley-based bookstore that sold novels nationally and that Michael Chabon encouraged fans to buy from, closed for good Friday because of lagging sales.

“I think it’s a terrible shame,” Chabon told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was a wonderful bookstore. It’s painful, sort of like watching someone suffering from a chronic illness painfully and slowly die. (Cody’s was) part of the fabric of Berkeley, the social fabric and commercial fabric.”

The store in recent years closed several branches until only one remained in Berkeley. But after rent nearly tripled a few months ago, the store’s owners decided they couldn’t keep it in business any longer.

Before Chabon stripped apart his Web site in 2006, he regularly linked to Cody’s site when encouraging visitors to buy his books. He also regularly had readings there for his new books, such as for The Final Solution and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

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).

Yiddish Nominated for Hugo

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union on Friday was nominated for a Hugo Award for best novel.

The award is one of two major awards for science fiction. Yiddish has already been nominated for the other sci-fi prize, the Nebula, and is also up for mystery fiction prize the Edgar Award.

The Hugo winners will be announced August 9.