By February 24, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Maps and Legends

Now Joyce Saricks will know that people are listening when she speaks.  At a talk she gave at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies she mentioned a collection of essays by Michael Chabon called Maps and Legends.

Chabon is one of the those people I would like to have read but…

After reading this work, Chabon is now one of those people I would like to take out to dinner so I could listen.  It would not matter what he talked about, just as long as he kept talking all night long.  I would ply him with beers to get him going on any subject he would like. 

This collection of 16 essays is a blend of personal history, world history, religious studies, comic books and genre blending.  This is typically not the type of reading I do but I could not stop myself from burning through this collection.  I believe it would make an interesting selection for a group to read even if they have not read his fiction works.

Quotes jump off the page throughout the work.

“Empires are built, however, by laying the groundwork for their own destruction.”  (p. 49)  That quote appears in an essay about Sherlock Holmes.  In the same essay he states, “Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving–amateurs–we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their own greatness, and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers–should we be lucky enough to find any–some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff we love:  to get in on the game.  All novels are sequels;  influence is bliss.”

Buy you another beer, Michael?

In an essay on the graphic novel American Flagg, we get:  “The pop artist operates within the received formulas–gangster movie, radio-ready A-side, space opera–and then incorporates into the style, manner, and mood of the work bits and pieces derived from all the aesthetic moments he or she has ever fallen in love with in other movies or songs or novels, whether hackwork or genius (without regard for and sometimes without consciousness of any difference between the two):  the bridge in a song by the Moonglows, a James Wong Howe camera angle, a Sabatini cannonade, a Stan Getz solo, the climax of The Demolished Man, a locomotive design by Raymond Loewy, a Shecky Greene routine.”  (p. 98)

Whew–now I need another beer.  Believe me when I say–no, let Chabon say it better than me.  “Literature, like magic, has always been about the handling of secrets, about the pain, the destruction, and the marvelous liberation that can result when they are revealed.” (p. 167)

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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