New Chabon Essay in New York Review of Books

Michael Chabon has authored a new essay, which appears in the July 16 issue of The New York Review of Books and is available online.

Titled “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood,” the essay explores why allowing children to have parentless adventures is important to developing their imaginations. Chabon, in the essay, questions whether the growing concern of parents for their childrens safety, and the accompanying decrease in freedom children get to explore the world alone, will have long-lasting effects on literature and creativity more generally in coming generations.

“The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there,” Chabon writes. “A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.”

(Side note: The title of the essay is the same as Chabon’s up-coming non-fiction book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs. The New York Review of Books gives no indication if the essay will appear in the book.)

Chabon Reviews McCarthy’s The Road

The New York Review of Books recently published an article by Michael Chabon analyzing Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. Here’s a sample (and possibly a sentence that rivals Melville in length):

All the elements of a science fiction novel of the post-apocalypse are present or at least hinted at, then, in The Road: the urgent naturalism of McCarthy’s description of torched woodland, desiccated human remains, decaying structures, human and natural violence; the ambivalence toward technology embodied in the destructive-redemptive role of fire; the faint inventive echoes of works like Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley and the Mad Max movies in McCarthy’s “bloodcults,” roving gangs of tattooed barbarian cannibals driven by lust and hunger and surviving bits of diesel-powered machinery; and the strong invitation to pardon the exercise as a fable extended by the namelessness of characters and locales, by the vague nature of the disaster that has befallen the world, by the presence of at least one semi-allegorical character and the usual, inevitable (in McCarthy’s work generally and the genre as a whole) speculation on the presence or absence of God.

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Chabon Defends Acknowledgments

The New York Times published a letter to the editor from Michael Chabon on Monday, defending the use of the acknowledgment in novels.

The letter came in response to an article Times books reporter Julie Bosman wrote that was critical of Norman Mailer’s very long acknowledgments.

“Here’s a crazy reason your article did not mention for including an acknowledgment at the end of your novel: to acknowledge,” Chabon wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 5 and mailed from Peterborough, New Hampshire.

“If there is some kind of old-fashioned virtue in concealing one’s debt to and gratitude for the hard work of others, it’s difficult for me to see where it lies,” Chabon wrote. “The comparison to an Oscar speech is easy but bogus; it’s much more like an invocation, a quick prayer of thanks offered up to your ancestors before you paddle your canoe over the falls.”

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