Sunday, March 7, 2010

Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of The Road

Gentlemen of the Road
by Michael Chabon

(10: 12/50)

"'Well, it looks like our boy found himself an army," the African said, shaking his head. "So much the worse for him'"

The entry below will openly analyze Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road and address specifically its possible themes, symbols, and intent. No plot-related spoilers will be divulged.

It can be argued that Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road is an exploration or at least a reminder of what Jewish civilization has been; that the Jewish people haven't always been stereotypically perceived as Woody Allen or Mort Goldman. Chabon even addresses these conceptions in his afterword. So yes, it can be argued, however, I wouldn't write a treatise on the subject. Gentlemen of the Road is more an adventure novel cut from the same material as the works of Dumas.

In regard to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose it depends on who you ask. The novel unquestionably makes allusions to the various adventure writers of the past, Dumas coming the surface primarily because he epitomises the genre in many regards. Conscious breaks in the narrative timeline, characters masquerading in disguise; it's a grandfather's child, really. And here is where we come to who you ask.

Genre fiction, because it so rarely concerns itself with higher aims, can only be evaluated by its success as a piece of genre fiction. There's no theme to redeem a lackluster narrative. In the case of Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road, it's well plotted and attention-holding but not engrossing. The narrative twists and turns numerous times (every chapter or two, really) but the things that you don't already see coming won't surprise you either. Chabon is playing in a sandbox full of toys we grew up with. Combined with sporadic, painfully overwrought passages, the novel is certainly not perfect.

It's an enjoyable read: It moves swiftly (in the good sense), his characters have a visual presence, and the accompanying illustrations are delightful. And despite being as objective as I have been here, I still be have an innate liking for Chabon and his work. I enjoy reading him even if he doesn't impress me, and he is at least unique in that regard.

Up Next: Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian

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