Maps and Legends

Maps and Legends coverMy review of Michael Chabon’s non-fiction collection Maps and Legends is up at Fruitless Recursion:

The title of Michael Chabon’s first collection of non-fiction is taken from one of the shortest pieces in the book, a brief essay about growing up in the planned community of Columbia, Maryland in the late sixties and early seventies. There is a literal map described, a partial streetmap that Chabon acquired from the city Exhibit Center, and was fascinated by, for its relation to an incomplete reality. Many of the street names alluded to the work of American writers and poets, but to Chabon they were most notable for referring to places that hadn’t been built yet. “They were like magic spells,” he writes, “each one calibrated to call into being one particular stretch of blacktop, sidewalk, and lawn, and no other” (31). Chabon then describes growing up, and feeling disillusioned about some of the lessons he had taken from life in Columbia, such as the extent to which America is racially integrated. Still and all, he says, he remembers the Exhibit Centre map with fondness, “however provisional” it and Columbia proved to be, and he attributes this fondness in part to the way the map steered him into the literary world. I’m not sure the word “legend” appears anywhere in the essay other than the title, but in that context it seems clear to me that it refers both to the literary legends — the stories — implicit in the map, and the legend of his own youth that Chabon is creating, not least because Maps and Legends, as a book, is divided between those two subjects.

Also in this issue: Paul Kincaid on Mike Ashley’s Gateways to Forever, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro on Gabriel McKee’s The Gospel According to Science Fiction, and Jonathan McCalmont on Studies in Modern Horror, edited by NGChristakos.

Candidate of Dune

The problem was not Obama; the problem was that at the instant when Hillary Clinton at last conceded, the nature of the campaign changed. It was, I considered (perhaps under the influence of the kind smile and exhortatory squeeze on the arm bestowed on me by Jimmy Carter, president of my darkest adolescence, as he passed me in the doorway of a LoDo Mexican restaurant), like the change that might occur between the first and second volumes of some spectacular science fiction fantasy epic. At the end of the first volume, after bitter struggle, Obama had claimed the presumptive nomination. We Fremen had done the impossible, against Sardaukar and imperial shock troops alike. We had brought water to Arrakis. Now the gathered tribes of the Democratic Party—hacks, Teamsters, hat ladies, New Mexicans, residents of those states most nearly resembling Canada, Jews of South Florida, dreadlocks, crewcuts, elderlies and goths, a cowboy or two, sons and daughters of interned Japanese-Americans—had assembled on the plains of Denver to attempt to vanquish old Saruman McCain.

Michael Chabon, of course.