Books: Pop Goes the Literature

When authors as highbrow as Michael Chabon write pulp fiction, what defines a good read?

In Michael Chabon's new mystery novel, The Final Solution (Fourth Estate; 131 pages)--hang on, let's back up. This is Pulitzer prizewinning Michael Chabon? Wonder Boys and Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon? Byronic hair Michael Chabon? Why would an esteemed, respectable literary novelist like Chabon want to sully his fancy-pants reputation with a mystery novel?

One of the interesting things about the present moment in U.S. literary history is that the tough, fibrous membrane that used to separate literary fiction from popular fiction is rupturing. The highbrow and the lowbrow, once kept chastely separate, are now hooking up, which is why we...

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