This year's keynote author was the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon (pronounced SHAY-bon). I've been a fan of Chabon's since I read his book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay years ago.
I like Chabon for two reasons:
First, I like Chabon because he's hilarious. He has a dry, occasionally sarcastic wit, and he takes ordinary, mundane objects and uses them to point out the absurdity of life (which he did in his speech by observing that any Lego creation these days comes with an oppressive set of instructions that demands to be followed exactly. These instructions make putting together a Lego toy a non-creative, painful process that, when completed, renders the possibility of playing with a Lego creation and potentially dismantling it by accident unthinkable).
Second, and more importantly, I like Chabon because he's trying to reclaim literature for the common reader. He's doing so by arguing for the value of entertaining, plot-filled books. (Gasp!)He's even said, "I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period."Heavily influenced by comic books and popular culture (his keynote address included extended references not just to Legos, but also to Doctor Who, the anatomical impossibility of comic book women, and The Fantastic Four) Chabon's writing is easily accessible.
Also, unlike other successful writers who tend to pooh-pooh genre fiction, Chabon vehemently defends it. He even won a Hugo award and a Nebula award (science fiction prizes) for his book The Yiddish Policemen's Union. He criticizes today's literary fiction as "plotless" and attacks what he calls the "contemporary, quotidian . . . moment-of-truth revelatory story."
Chabon's on a mission, trying to "annihilate" the academic bias against genre fiction by blending the best elements of literary fiction (attention to language and character) with the best elements of genre fiction (entertaining plots).
If you struggle with overly literary books and had a tough time plowing through Unaccustomed Earth, maybe you should check out Chabon. He's blending two worlds. He's literary and artistic, but he's also a firm believer in entertaining plots.
Learn more about his books here.
NOTE: We start discussing The Book Thief in four days, so get your copy soon.