Maps and Legends

In whimsical, ruminatively leaping essays, one of the Bay Area?s favorite wonder boys expounds upon his fascinations: golems, comic books, Kabbalah, Sherlock Holmes, genre fiction, and the early 1970s. In the process, Chabon both presents and defends the specificities of his life?s imaginative terrains, the eclectic ingredients he?s used to make his own literature, and the literary pathways he traveled to become a writer. Probably not just anyone could have had an early-'70s East Coast Jewish childhood and then, living in Oakland at the age of 25, crossed The Great Gatsby with Goodbye, Columbus to come up with Mysteries of Pittsburgh. But in the process of exploring where he?s from, Chabon is also offering an object lesson: Excavating ways that pay attention to particular passions, defending childhood loves, and preserving one?s own internal dialects are fertile terrains for making art. Chabon?s prose is rambunctious and even supercharged: He?s got a wonderful, digressive etymolygy of the word "entertain" as having to do with host and guest, performer and audience, twined in mutual suspension. For the most part, Chabon masters his own tightrope and ropes us in. If at times his expository gallivanting waxes precious or thin, Chabon also provides a generous working model. He argues that in making space for your own specificities and literary loves, you (the general, art-making you) have a chance to chart your place and time?s unique voice in literature. If you?re lucky, the addition of your loves may increase the sum of ways we (the general reading us) can mean and feel and know ourselves. That would be, Chabon argues, a triumph indeed.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).