Books: The Genius Who Wanted to Be a Hack

Illustration for TIME by Riccardo Vecchio

Michael Chabon

In the past eight years Michael Chabon, who is probably the premiere prose stylist--the Updike--of his generation, has written a novel about superhero comics; a fantasy tale; a mystery starring an old man who may or may not be Sherlock Holmes; and a pulp crime book set in an alternate time. (That last would be The Yiddish Policemen's Union, about a murder in a what-if world where Alaska becomes a homeland for the Jews, or as they're called there, "the frozen Chosen.") Chabon is still a literary novelist, but he's having a hot, star-crossed flirtation with the "popular" genres. He riffs...

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