Maps and Legends

In whimsical, ruminatively leaping essays, one of the Bay Area?s favorite wonder boys expounds upon his fascinations: golems, comic books, Kabbalah, Sherlock Holmes, genre fiction, and the early 1970s. In the process, Chabon both presents and defends the specificities of his life?s imaginative terrains, the eclectic ingredients he?s used to make his own literature, and the literary pathways he traveled to become a writer. Probably not just anyone could have had an early-’70s East Coast Jewish childhood and then, living in Oakland at the age of 25, crossed The Great Gatsby with Goodbye, Columbus to come up with Mysteries of Pittsburgh. But in the process of exploring where he?s from, Chabon is also offering an object lesson: Excavating ways that pay attention to particular passions, defending childhood loves, and preserving one?s own internal dialects are fertile terrains for making art. Chabon?s prose is rambunctious and even supercharged: He?s got a wonderful, digressive etymolygy of the word “entertain” as having to do with host and guest, performer and audience, twined in mutual suspension. For the most part, Chabon masters his own tightrope and ropes us in. If at times his expository gallivanting waxes precious or thin, Chabon also provides a generous working model. He argues that in making space for your own specificities and literary loves, you (the general, art-making you) have a chance to chart your place and time?s unique voice in literature. If you?re lucky, the addition of your loves may increase the sum of ways we (the general reading us) can mean and feel and know ourselves. That would be, Chabon argues, a triumph indeed.