Nathan has gone to Chaya’s place naked in the middle of the night, sort of a dare by his equally juvenile mates.
“Are you a virgin, Nathan?” she said, her mouth very close to his.
He considered his reply much longer than he needed to, trying to phrase it as ambiguously as he could. “In a manner of speaking,” he said at last, blushing in self-congratulation at the urbanity of this reply.
Chabon continues to please me greatly. Maybe more than anything because he cares about words, he is a master craftsman and manages to be precise in a poetic, rather than terse, way. A lot of goodreaders seem to care most about the overall structure of a book. If it starts at the beginning and ends at the end, for example, they will sneer at it. The largest unit I really care about in a conscious way as I read a book, is the sentence. Words, phrases, sentences. On this level I don’t see how one can fault Chabon. As it happens, he also tells a great story. Being at heart a poet (my assertion, I don’t know if it would be his), structure for him is always simple. That’s what poetry is about, making complex things easy and brief, getting to the gist, not beating about the place filling up long pages with stuff that isn’t needed.
Having just given up, in a rather irritated way, on a Joyce Carol Oates, a tediously repetitive book that wouldn’t concede at any point that it could have done with being a short story or thereabouts; it was a delight to read something in which it would only be to one’s cost to miss any of the words.
Some people are down on this book, I really don’t understand why. He establishes himself as an accomplished short storyist (is that a word?) so early in his career. Wow. That should be the hardest thing to have under his belt.
For anybody who competes, from the story ‘Smoke’:
Whatever the cause, he could no longer find what Eli Drinkwater had called the wormhole. Drinkwater had picked up this term from Dr. Carl Sagan’s television program. A pitched ball passing through the wormhole disappeared for an instant and then reappeared somehwere else entirely, at once right on target and nowhere near where it out to be, halfway across the galaxy, right on the edge of the black. Magee’s repeated, multiseasonal failure to find the wormhole had bred fear, and fear caution; he had undergone some horrendous shellings.
Indeed, Mr Chabon, indeed.