Michael Chabon as seen by Kathryn Schulz
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was one of those novels that I devoured like porn when I was in my early twenties, that is to say with one I glued to it's pages and ears to door in case someone should stumble upon me reading it. I was at that time, not ready to come out of the closet (even to myself) but still had this... "itching", this intense curiosity about what it meant to be gay. Luckily the book was a respectable book, appreciated by critics, and mainstream enough, with a bland enough cover that no one who might see me reading it (people at the office, friends, my parents) would have any inkling what it was about. And if anybody did asked me what it was about, I told them in a way that I hoed sounded as blase as I intended it to.
After all, what was I hiding? I was just a straight dude with a passing interest in how a different breed lived, right? But as I hungrily flipped page after page I should have known that I was far too curious about what might happen between two men and a lone bottle of corn oil than any straight guy would be. And while I hated the protagonist for cheating on his girlfriend with a man, I just as much pitied him for his inability to escape what I deemed at that time to be mild perversion, and feared that his fate would be my own.
So ... that was my introduction to the hesitantly hopeful work of Michael Chabon and his well meaning protagonists who seemed doomed to fuck up their lives and others. Years later I read and absolutely loved his short story collection "Werewolves in Their Youth" for its ability to suck me into the pivotal moments of ordinary men's lives, and equally adored The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for it's epic scope and rich pulpy details.
Aside from his work, there is something else that has kept me intrigued by him, a personal ambiguity that I find fascinating. He is so mysterious, fumbling, intellectual... a straight man who admits to having had affairs with men, a man who writes both the high and low-brow (aside from his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, he also wrote the screenplay for John Carter) He's a kind of hipster/geek/intellect/sensitive/hetero-flexible/dreamboat, and in short, I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall of his office, and living room, and bedroom.
Thanks to Kathryn Schulz and her feature originally penned for New York Magazine, I feel like I have been. She has a great ability to evoke his style, his awkward charm, and his gentle intensity, and has crafted an article that is as much of a page turner as Chabon's compellingly readable works.