*With apologies to author Chris Kraus and the entire Chabon family

August 27, 2017 Musings 2 Comments

 

I turned the page of Michael Chabon’s Moonglow.

“Listen to this beautifully evocative sentence,” I say to Frank. I have read it to myself at least five times employing a slightly different French accent each time.

“You should read this,” I say. “You’d like it. Parts of it would remind you of your father.”

Frank says something that I take to be affirmative, yet when I later think back on the conversation, I cannot remember him actually speaking.

While I finish Moonglow I lend my copy of Wonder Boys to Frank.

“Has he always been such a handsome fellow?” Frank asks. I glance at the photograph he studies of Michael on the cover of Wonder Boys.

“Yes, only now he’s turning gray.”

I tell Frank about the time I saw Michael at Book Passage. “He looked just like that,” I say, nodding at the photo. “For a brief moment, our eyes may have met. I think we made a connection.”

That night, Frank and I cannot sleep. We stay up for hours discussing this possible connection and what it might mean. I also tell him that once I saw Michael’s wife, Ayelet Waldman, at Book Passage. Her presence left me ambivalent.

For two months, Frank takes Wonder Boys into my parlor to read. He never gets past page seven and often must start from the beginning because he’s forgotten what he’s read.

I have long since finished Moonglow and remind him he must read it. He brings Wonder Boys on our trip to Maine where we stay in a depressingly picturesque cottage overlooking a cove that evokes halcyon days of summer camp and childhood.

As Frank grills bluefish and imitates owl calls, I scroll through my Instagram account. I have been following Michael for months and now I see that he and the Chabon family are ensconced just down the road from us. Google maps posts the location of where Michael took the photograph I am admiring. His captions are wry and witty. Depending on my mood I either enjoy them or feel an existential loneliness that cannot be evaded.

The next day Frank and I sit at the end of the dock below our cottage drinking wine. He gazes at the sun vanishing over the water. I obsessively scroll through hours of Instagram posts of sunsets and lakes.

“Look!” I say. “The Chabon family is eating at Bagaduce,” the James Beard award winning restaurant situated just around the curve in the cove from us. It is so close we can hear the high school girl calling out takeout numbers from where we sit.

“Calling Michael Chabon! Pick-up! Have you considered editing page 117?” Frank, an editor, repeats this several times, growing louder and more amused with himself after each incantation.

I can only imagine Ayelet Waldman’s consternation; it seems to float across the water to us and I mention it, hoping Frank will subside. While he shouts it out yet again I craft an apology to Ayelet.

Dear Ayelet:

There really is no excuse for our boorish behavior. Well, perhaps it was that fourth glass of pinot noir.

I eye the bottle, stashed between our Adirondack chairs and realize I have not written a satisfactory apology. But as I am ambivalent toward Ayelet, so am I ambivalent toward the apology.

“Apologies are for the bourgeoisie,” I announce, although the feeling that we have overstepped a boundary lingers throughout the evening. We talk about it for hours until falling asleep on the cottage floor amid bottles of pinot noir and pages of unsent letters. I wake up with one of those letters stuck to my face.

We set our confusing relationship with Michael aside as we meander through Blue Hill Books, an independent bookstore in Blue Hill, Maine.

While Frank studies the shelves I search for Michael’s section. Then a poster advertising a Richard Russo reading taking place that night catches my eye. We have no intention of actually attending the reading but as we drive away I speculate as to whether Pulitzer Prize winning novelists hang out together and pretend to like one another. Perhaps Michael will drop by the reading. As we approach Searsport we imagine possible conversations between Michael and Richard Russo.

Frank says,

Tell me Michael, have you ever considered re-visiting Wonder Boys and editing it?

Pretending to be Michael, I say,

I’ve heard other people have read Empire Falls.

The next day Michael posts a photograph of Queen Anne’s Lace on Instagram. I take it as a special sign meant for me, as I have always been partial to roadside weeds. Perhaps communicating via Instagram is the way to go.

I spend hours scrolling through my photographs but since he does not follow me, ultimately it seems pointless and, I abandon this course.

As we eat our fifth lobster roll in as many days, Frank shouts, “Michael Chabon, page 16, paragraph 3! Michael Chabon, page 16, paragraph 3! Words we don’t know!”

Then we enter into our lengthiest conversation with Michael to-date. It hinges around the idea of Google Maps and actually running into him. And if we do, should I approach him for a photograph? This is a topic with artistic ramifications that must be explored in-depth – and so we do – for several days. As I am setting the table and Frank is grilling, I come across a folded piece of paper tucked between pages 8 and 9 of Wonder Boys. I read:

Dear Ayelet:

Has Michael ever considered revisiting Wonder Boys?

Fondly,

Frank

P.S. I am curious; how do you feel about our relationship with Michael?

His post script is brilliant and I am surprised it has not occurred to me. As I carry a tray and bottle of wine out to the grill my feet have barely touched the grass before I begin discussing whether Ayelet should be included in our photograph. This is an important artistic construct with issues that cannot be overlooked. At times I am all for asking her to join us. Then again, perhaps Frank could distract her while I get my photograph with Michael.

Ultimately, ennui sets in and I remain ambivalent.

 

*This post has been edited down from 98,000 words.

…and if you’re interested in the real thing, here’s my favorite article on I Love Dick becoming a television series, written by Chloe Schildhause.