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Synopsis

Pulitzer Prizewinning author Michael Chabon has emerged as one of the most daring writers of American fiction in the post-Pynchon era. Joseph Dewey examines how Chabon’s narratives have sought to bring together the defining elements of the two principal expressions of the American narrative that his generation inherited: the formal extravagances of postmodernism and the compelling storytelling of psychological realism. Like the audacious, self-conscious excesses of Pynchon and his postmodern disciples, Dewey argues, Chabon’s fictions are extravagant, often ironic, experiments into form animated by dense verbal and linguistic energy. As with the probing texts of psychological realism by Updike and his faithful, Chabon’s fictions center on keenly drawn, recognizable characters caught up in familiar, heartbreaking dilemmas; enthralling storylines compelled by suspense, enriched with suggestive symbols; and humane themes about love and death, work and family, and sexuality and religion. Evolving over three decades, this hybrid fiction has made Chabon not only one of the most widely read composers of serious fiction of his guild but one of the most critically respected writers as well, thus positioning Chabon as a representative voice of the generation. Dewey’s study, the first to examine the full breadth of Chabon’s fiction from his landmark debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to his controversial 2012 best seller, Telegraph Avenue, places Chabon’s fictional sensibility, for all its hipness, within what has been the defining theme of American literature since the provocative romances of Hawthorne and Melville: the anxious tension between escape and engagement; between the sweet, centripetal pull of the redemptive imagination as a splendid, if imperfect, engine of retreat and the harsh, centrifugal pull of real life itself, recklessly deformed by the crude handiwork of surprise and chance and unable to coax even the simplest appearance of logic.

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