Tuesday, December 27, 2016
All this is within the framework of an almost Doctorowesque historical treatise on aviation technology in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. It is also a fictional memoir of Chabon's grandparents on his mother's side, one of whom was a pioneering rocketeer, and the other, Granny, everything from a TV personality to mental patient at then famed Greystone, in New Jersey--a place my parents threatened to send me to when I was a child, while I threatened to take them up on it, and give the staff a real run for their money!!!!!!!!--and should have moved at rocket speed. But that is the problem. It does not.
While acting as an all-purpose chronicle--of his family, and the entire Baby Boomer generation--I don't know quite what goes wrong. Is it worth reading? Definitely! But, for all Chabon's details and skill, it is not as compelling a read as it ought to be. I had to force myself to go back to it, and, while glad I did, recalled that with other works of his, I never had that feeling. At first, I thought he was trying to cover too much, but that is Chabon's specialty.
So, what goes wrong here? What's wrong with me? Has Chabon lost his touch?
Not really. The problem, I think, is he has entered that pantheon of authors--like Donna Tartt and Jonathan Franzen --from whom all readers expect gold to pour forth every time. And those are hard odds to beat. In some cases, "Moonglow" would be better suited to those having never read Chabon, so there will be nothing to compare it to. For those of us who have, let me say proceed with caution.
It is not explosive, like the Challenger. But the reader does not blast off, either.