Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What I read: "Summerland" by Michael Chabon

I began reading "Summerland" without knowing much more about it than the fact that its author, Michael Chabon, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." I've been meaning to read that book but can't seem to get it at the library (must remember to request a hold). I picked up "Summerland" because it looked interesting and I'd heard good things about Chabon.

The book is a fantasy -- with giants, fairies and magical moments -- based around the game of baseball. I'm not a huge baseball fan, but was enjoying the story when I got to page 83 (of the hardback edition). A character disagrees with the umpire's call.

"You are blind as a bat, Brody" he was saying. "Always have been! Wandering around half blind in that drugstore, it's a wonder you ain't given rat poison to some poor kid with asthma! How can you say the girl's out when anybody with half an eyeball could see she had it beat by a mile?"

"She stumbled, Albert," Mr. Brody said, his voice a little more controlled than Albert's. But just a little. The two men were standing with their faces less than a foot apart.

"Forget you!" Albert said. "Man, forget you! You are worse than blind, you're stupid!"

It's not as if I need people to use the F word in books I read, but there was something really odd about that last piece of dialogue. "Forget you"? Who talks that way? So, I looked a little closer at the book's dust jacket. There it is, at the very bottom of the inside back cover: Hyperion Books for Children. Oh. I see. Trust me, this book was in the fiction section of the public library -- the regular fiction section. Not the kids' section. Not even the teen shelf (where they did file "The Book Thief," which seems less like a children's book than this one). Now, I don't normally seek out children's books to read. Ok, true, I may have read the entire Harry Potter series (twice) but I don't usually read kids' books for my own enjoyment.

Then again, I did enjoy "Summerland." From an adult perspective, it was light and fun. The team of good guys -- made up of two human (or "reuben") children, a changeling, a giant, a Sasquach, a washed up major league outfielder, a wererat and a fairy(or "ferisher") -- have to defeat the bad guys at a game of baseball to save the world. It has much of what you'd find in this type of book: a young hero and heroine, an absent parent, a journey, a quest, an epic battle (albeit baseball) between good and evil. Adults may find it formulaic, while kids may find it exciting or even scary at times. It was a bit of escape for me. And in this time of economic woes, why the heck not?

When they saw the miraculous ball field that had swirled into existence at their doorstep, the ferishers of Dandelion Hill threw down their tennis rackets and croquet mallets, and left behind the scarred gray patch in the grass where their old field had lain. They dived into the thick, new grass, and swam in it like water, and rolled over onto their back, and floated on it, and sighed.


Kate said...

Funny. I just finished a Chabon book, too: The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Not that I've blogged it yet.

Pammeey said...

I'll be interested to see what you think of him.

moArdy said...

For some reason your post totally made me remember The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) - remember that book?

I loved it when I was little (ok, a teenager). I'll have to look up Chabon.

Pammeey said...

I love Roald Dahl.

Heather said...

I just read his book "The Final Solution" and didn't get into it at all. But I have read Kavalier and Clay and I really liked it. You can borrow it if you'd like.