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).

Sundance Wrap-Up: How’d Mysteries Do?

It didn’t win any awards, and the early reviews are mixed to bad.

That’s the final word on Mysteries of Pittsburgh following last week’s Sundance Film Festival. Bloggers had long attacked the movie for not following the book close enough.

The Hollywood Reporter calls Mysteries a “reverential and smart distillation” of Chabon’s novel. But the Reporter takes some hits at the film too, saying the performances of Jon Foster and Peter Sarsgaard are what help invigorate the film and “keenly flesh-out its emotional dimensions.”

FirstShowing.Net‘s reviewer also liked the film. “What I discovered was not particularly funny, but rather a very endearing drama with a wonderful score and great characters. It’s not anything close to a masterpiece, but Mysteries of Pittsburgh is still a great film.”

Then there’s the mixed reviews, like Buzz Sugar’s. “It’s not a bad movie, by any means. The music is fantastic, for example. Many of the directorial choices (the way shots are set up, the use of voiceover narration, etc.) are superb. Several of the performances are arresting. But the dialog is stilted and the action feels extremely rushed.”

And then there’s the haters. A review posted on Ain’t It Cool News say while the film was “competently directed, the story was unengaging. Keep the faith in Thurber and most of the actors, but check this flick out only if you’re hardcore for any of ’em.”

And The Advocate slams the film as well. “Thurber’s changes have made The Mysteries of Pittsburgh flatter, more generic, and more like umpteen Sundance films that have come before it.”

A parting shot, from Chud: “Here’s the big mystery of Pittsburgh: How did this movie manage to be so completely terrible?”

LA Times Profiles Thurber

The Los Angeles Times profiled Rawson Marshall Thurber in the run-up to today’s premier of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

A large part of the article focuses on the odd risk Thurber is taking professionally making Mysteries his follow-up to Dodgeball. The paper reports that Thurber’s friends and agent tried to convince him not to do it.

“I probably actively dissuaded him four times,” said John August (screenwriter for “Go” and “Charlies Angeles”). “A script is a year of your life, and there’s no guarantee it will become a movie.

“Rawson has always come to me for advice and rarely taken it. He understood the risk but was completely undeterred. That’s how somebody gets a career in this business.”

Over on his blog, though, August suggests he’s happy Thurber ignored him.

“I’ve seen the movie five times, and am ridiculously proud of Mr. Thurber,” he wrote.

Mysteries Clip Online

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Sundance Film Festival this week to see Mysteries of Pittsburgh premier, Spike TV is hosting online an interview with Rawson Marshall Thurber that features a clip from the film.

And never fear — while in the past some Sundance films have found themselves abandoned without a home and never to be seen in wide distribution, odds are good that Mysteries will get purchased thanks to the writer’s strike. The New York Times on Thursday profiled Groundswell Productions, the house behind Mysteries and two other competitors at the festival.

Yiddish Nominated for Edgar

The Houston Chronicle reports that The Yiddish Policemen’s Union has been nominated for the Edgar Award for “Best Novel.”

The Edgars recognize outstanding mystery writing fiction. Other nominees in the novel category include Christine Falls by Benjamin Black; Priest by Ken Bruen; Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman; and Down River by John Hart.

For the full list of nominees, head here. Awards are presented May 1.