Media Seasons

Michael Chabon

A serendipitous decision to sit down early this evening and catch up on reading the weekend’s papers gave me an hour and a half to scurry over to my old alma mater, Lehigh University, to hear author Michael Chabon speak about how his Jewishness affects his literature. I cannot sleep until I write about it!

Chabon devilishly warned us that his speech was in six parts, each lasting an hour?! Oh, if it could only be so—that we might luxuriate in his incredible use of language and provocative connections. I had dragged along my teenage son, who wanted to know if he would really be interesting, since he hadn’t even finished reading one of Chabon’s books, Kavel and Clay, which I knew lay on a heap in the middle of his bedroom floor because I had tripped over it one morning not long ago dodging backpack and dirty clothes to get to the window to lift the shade to hurry along his painstakingly slow waking up process. Little did I know that Chabon would be discussing parents’ betrayal of their children! My son and I probably laughed more together than we have since he was ten—as Chabon addressed the most important mysterious truths of our lives, including religion, sexuality, mortality and the necessary betrayal that comes along with it.

Chabon began with a glimpse of a “first father,” Barack Obama on his inaugural weekend, an event he witnessed in Washington D.C. with at least one of his own sons. Chabon encapsulized so many of my own hopes and fears for this new leader of our country and this moment in history that I wondered how much our same birthyear (1963) —so close to that of J.F. Kennedy’s assassination formed so many shared thoughts. His exploration of father led us not only to God, but Abraham and his own parenting, including the long history of circumcision.

Chabon deftly moved us between the individual as parent and the social contexts that are difficult to remove ourselves from as we parent. While talking about time and memory related to parenting, and moving us from Biblical stories to Star Trek in a mere few sentences, one of Chabon’s most striking quotes was related to a Star Trek multi-generational episode in which he states, “Children collapse time.”

Look for his new book this fall, in which the explorations of this speech will be thoroughly presented in a quirky, provocative manner. I can hardly bear the thought of waiting for it. In response to a question, he also let us know the Coen brothers will be working on a script of his Yiddish Policeman’s Union. He appeared as thrilled as I did about that news, even surmising that someone like a 1970’s Eliot Gould would be perfect for the leading role. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Chabon’s Maps and Legends book I picked up this evening. I’m sure I’ll have more to share as I work through the ideas he pitches at me in that title! Yes, I had to use some baseball lingo, since he dropped several such phrases this evening (made me want to crack open his Summerland for another read).


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