A Model World by Michael Chabon (1991) 207 p.
I’ve mentioned before that Michael Chabon is a writer I greatly respect, not just for penning one of my favourite novels of all time, but also for being a literary heavyweight determined to restore the good name of genre fiction: someone decrying “the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story.” I fucking hate those stories.
A Model World is a collection of precisely those kinds of stories, drawn from the very early years of Chabon’s career, before he was… cleansed. They are, of course, brimming with beautiful prose and perfect turns of phrase, because he is Michael Chabon. Yet they’re also pointless. Forgettable. Unremarkable. They may inspire emotions, but like emotions themselves, they quickly fade away. They are, to use another of his quotes I delight in, “sparkling with epiphanic dew.” Which evaporates.
If you’re going to read that kind of story you could probably do worse, mind you. There are a couple of good ones in here. The final five all follow the same character, Nathan Shapiro, through a predictable bildungsroman; sort of like Hemingway’s Nick Adams but with less manliness and more existential melancholy (or did Nick do that a lot too?) It’s quite banal, but because it’s done by Chabon it’s not a complete waste of your time. Sort of like how Shutter Island was a typical psychological thriller, but much better than usual because it was directed by Martin Scorsese. Except Shutter Island was much better than A Model World, but you get what I mean.
In any case, I only have to muck about in the fetid slop of Chabon’s early career long enough to read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Werewolves In Their Youth. Then it’s rocketing back into his awesome post-2000 work, with epic World War II adventures and Sherlock Holmes and alternate dimension homicide detectives and all that jazz. That’s gonna be awesome.
Having said that, Mike, I GET THAT YOU ARE JEWISH! I REALLY, REALLY DO! NOW WILL YOU PLEASE STOP WRITING ABOUT IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!