Michael Chabon on Defying Labels and Finding Your People


Bookstore dilemma: Where to shelve a book that’s not entirely fiction but not 100% memoir? That’s what we had to contemplate when we unboxed Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Chabon’s new book of “speculative autobiography,” Moonglow.

The author’s note at the front of the book provides this not-quite-helpful hint:

In preparing this memoir, I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it. Wherever liberties have been taken with names, dates, places, events, and conversations or with the identities, motivations, and interrelationships of family members and historical personages, the reader is assured that they have been taken with due abandon.

{AA6E1031-4895-4C02-AECF-7840FBE4C061}Img100.jpgWell, then. Perhaps the label’s not the point. (Still: you’ll find it on our fiction table.)

Chabon told Musing: “As has happened only once before, with Wonder Boys, Moonglow just arrived in my fingertips at the keyboard one day, when I thought I was going to be writing another book entirely.” Named to the list of most notable books of the year by both The New York Times and The Washington Post, Moonglow is based on conversations Chabon had with his terminally ill grandfather, who — over the course of a week’s visit years ago — unspooled decades of memories, private stories from his life and marriage intertwined with the biggest events of 20th century America. The Wall Street Journal calls the book, “an ancestor’s tale transmuted into a bewitching work of Greatest Generation mythology.” We call it a thoroughly entrancing story of love, war, secrets, and family. (Read more about it in Chapter 16’s review.)

Meet Chabon this coming Sunday, December 4, at 3 p.m. in the downtown Nashville Public Library, where he’ll speak as part of the Salon@615 series. Meanwhile, Chabon takes our Authors in Real Life quiz and tells us a little about what he does when he’s not writing.

Michael Chabon (photo: Benjamin Tice Smith)

I’ve been listening to: 
Os Mutantes, “A” E O “Z” 
Big Star, Complete Third
Young Thug, Jeffery
Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie, Travels in Constants, Vol. 24. 
Lijadu Sisters, Horizon Unlimited

I love to watch:
Right now? Atlanta and Black Mirror.

Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think:
Well, I confess this announcement caused a certain amount of excitement in the house —
Girl Scout Cookie Cereal is a Real Thing and Happening Soon.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.17.50 PM.pngBest meal I’ve had lately:
Probably dim sum brunch at Yank Sing in San Francisco with all of our family briefly reunited at the same table, pounding down the soup dumplings.

A creator who’s doing something I envy:
The Duffer Brothers (creators of Stranger Things).

The book I most recently recommended to someone else:
The Bell Jar, to my daughter, Rose, 15.

The last event I bought tickets to was:
A concert by the (mostly) reunited band Television (sans Richard Lloyd) at The Chapel in San Francisco.

Most meaningful recent travel destination:
To Annandale-on-Hudson, to visit Zeke Chabon, Bard College freshman, Parents’ Weekend, 2016.

I wish I knew more about:

Favorite thing about bookstores:
I’m gonna say… the fact that they sell books?

BONUS QUESTION – (Readers: If you didn’t already see it earlier this fall, please take a moment to enjoy Chabon’s brilliant essay in GQ, all the way to its last line.)


Your essay about your son, Abe, shares a beautiful story about how important it is to find the people among whom you belong. So, how did you find your people?
Well, I guess I kind of found them in books. Is that too pathetic to confess?

Nope. Not at all.

 * * *

Event details: Advance seating tickets are no longer available, but we will offer onsite tickets, free, at the library starting at 2:45 p.m. (We expect a line to form for these tickets and recommend you arrive early.) ALSO: There will be a book-signing held after the event for anyone who purchased their copy of Moonglow from Parnassus Books. Books will also be for sale on site. All Salon patrons receive 10% off!