Renowned children’s book illustrator, Kadir Nelson, spoke at KPL’s 31st Children's Literature Seminar last month. He told his audience that some of his illustrations derive from childhood memories, and he always strives to tell the truth. That’s what readers want, he said.
Nothing against Mr. Nelson (he was great), but Michael Chabon, in his book of essays, Maps and Legends: reading and writing along the borderlands, would disagree. The inspiring flecks of memoir scattered throughout his book hail partly from real events and partly from invention. By entangling the two, he asserts, the made up stuff becomes credible.
This narrow margin between truth and lies is just one of the boundaries the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon addresses in his musings about the writers’ craft. Chabon testifies that interesting and entertaining writing requires the creator to cross borders, venture into new zones, or skitter around the edges of convention. He extols genre fiction---fantasy, science fiction, graphic novels, ghost stories, etc. and celebrates the use of quirky character devices, such as golems, tricksters, and daemons. He even employs the book’s physical form to reinforce his unique literary views. The beautifully designed jacket doesn’t wrap the entire cover and its inside flaps are void of words and the author’s acknowledgements are laid out visually as a map with legend.
Chabon’s penchant for the extraordinary started in 1969 when his family joined a smattering of colonists as residents of Columbia, MD, one of the country’s planned, utopian communities. In the title essay, Maps and Legends, Chabon declares that moving “into the midst of that unfinished, ongoing act of imagination set the course of my life.” For a acollege urban studies class in the late sixties, I wrote a paper about Columbia and other "new towns." If only I'd had this mesmorizing essay as a resource.
Esquire Magazine recently named Chabon one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st Century for their belief he will help insure the survival of reading...especially reading for pleasure. After experiencing this book, I can see why.
Maps and Legends