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Moonglow
Cover of Moonglow
Moonglow
A Novel
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Following on the heels of his New York Times–bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and...
Following on the heels of his New York Times–bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and...
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  • Following on the heels of his New York Times–bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure—and the forces that work to destroy us.

    In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother's home in Oakland, California, to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon's grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis of the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.

    Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather." It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics and Boy's Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigor and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.

    From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York's Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of "the American Century," Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.

About the Author-

  • Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 1, 2016
    Chabon’s (Telegraph Avenue) charming and elegantly structured novel is presented as a memoir by a narrator named Mike who shares several autobiographical details with Chabon (for one, they’re both novelists who live in the Bay Area). Mike’s memoir is concerned less with his own life than with the lives of his deceased maternal Jewish grandparents, who remain unnamed. His grandfather—whose deathbed reminisces serve as the novel’s main narrative engine—is a WWII veteran with an anger streak (the stint he does in prison after a workplace assault is one of the novel’s finest sections) and a fascination with V-2 rockets, astronomy, space travel, and all things celestial or skyward. Mike’s grandmother, born in France, is alluring but unstable, “a source of fire, madness, and poetry” whose personal history overlaps in unclear ways with the Holocaust, and whose fits of depression and hallucination result in her institutionalization (also one of the novel’s finest sections). Chabon imbricates his characters’ particular histories with broader, detail-rich narratives of war, migration, and technological advances involving such figures as Alger Hiss and Wernher von Braun. This move can sometimes feel forced. What seduces the reader is Chabon’s language, which reinvents the world, joyously, on almost every page. Listening to his grandfather’s often-harrowing stories, Mike thinks to himself, “What I knew about shame... would fit into half a pistachio shell.”

  • AudioFile Magazine This smoothly flowing novel plays out like a duet between Michael Chabon's characters and plot twists and George Newbern's narration. The story sounds like it's composed of what might be family tales. An old man's memories of youth, war, marriage, and his ongoing pride in the NASA models he has created are juxtaposed with his grandson's observations of dramas that occurred on the distaff side of the family. Further complications ensue through other telling details of confusions arising from both misplaced blunt honesty and wishful prevaricating. Newbern's accents and pacing ably make each family member sound real, giving the listener a sense of immediate access to each individually and as part of the rich tapestry of each other's interpretations. F.M.R.G. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2016

    As the narrator of Pulitzer Prize winner Chabon's luminous new work observes, "Keeping secrets was a family business." So he's tersely attentive when his terminally ill grandfather suddenly spills the revelations forming this narrative, which zigzags from World War II through his grandparents' complicated marriage to his grandfather's final days in Florida. Widowed and with a four-year-old daughter, his grandmother arrived in Baltimore from a displaced persons camp. Over time, her war experiences eventually lead to madness through which her husband, smitten at first sight, remains constant despite his own checkered business career. He's an engineer with a passion for rocketry, but the shattering experience of coming upon the Nordhausen armaments factory as a soldier has refocused his thinking. Throughout, he's one tough and colorful fellow; in fact, all the characters are vividly realized and the historical details freshly observed. Chabon ambitiously layers in a lot of history, family and otherwise, and there are a few slow moments. Still, the story builds to core revelations of wartime horror and postwar heartbreak as powerful as they come, with the author gifting readers by finally observing that happiness is "in the cracks." VERDICT Vibrantly real (Chabon reimagined his own grandfather's memories); for all readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/16.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2016

    Framed as a man's deathbed confession to his grandson, capturing the seesawing intensity of the American century, ranging from South Philadelphia's Jewish slums to the invasion of Germany to a Florida retirement village, covering sex, war, secrets keeping, deep-seated doubt, and mid-20th-century technological advancement, this grand saga blends imagination with acute historical detail. You expected anything less from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon? Rooted in autobiography--the author was inspired by his terminally ill grandfather's floodgates-open revelations in 1989--this book captures history through an individual. With a 350,000-copy first printing and a 12-city tour.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    A faux memoir of the novelist's grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.When "Michael Chabon," the narrator of this novel, was growing up, his maternal grandparents were steeped in mystery and mythology. His grandmother was a tight-lipped Holocaust survivor with a fixation on tarot cards, while his grandfather was a World War II Army officer who'd also done time in prison. The novel is largely Chabon's (Telegraph Avenue, 2012, etc.) effort to understand his grandfather's wilder escapades. Why did he try to strangle a former business partner with a telephone cord? What was he thinking when he and a buddy in the Army Corps of Engineers prankishly set explosives on a bridge in Washington, D.C.? What did he feel while he hunted down Wernher von Braun in Germany? And, more tenderly, what did he see in the young girl he met in Baltimore after returning home from the war? A study in intellect, violence, and displacement, his grandfather is engaging on the ground level while also serving as a kind of metaphor for Cold War America. And Chabon writes tenderly about his grandparents' relationship--his grandmother was a horror-flick host on local TV and suffered from mental illness her husband was ill-equipped to handle. Chabon's theme is the storytelling (i.e., lies) people lean on to survive through complicated times: "The world, like the Tower of Babel or my grandmother's deck of cards, was made out of stories, and it was always on the verge of collapse." A noble enough theme, but Chabon is an inveterate overwriter who dilutes his best storytelling with more ponderous digressions--on the manufacture of the V-2 rocket, model-making, Thomas Pynchon, and the relationships his widowed grandfather pursued before his death. He's captured a fine story about the poignancy of two souls' survival but also too many others about plenty else besides.A heartfelt but sodden family saga. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2016
    A faux memoir of the novelists grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.When Michael Chabon, the narrator of this novel, was growing up, his maternal grandparents were steeped in mystery and mythology. His grandmother was a tight-lipped Holocaust survivor with a fixation on tarot cards, while his grandfather was a World War II Army officer whod also done time in prison. The novel is largely Chabons (Telegraph Avenue, 2012, etc.) effort to understand his grandfathers wilder escapades. Why did he try to strangle a former business partner with a telephone cord? What was he thinking when he and a buddy in the Army Corps of Engineers prankishly set explosives on a bridge in Washington, D.C.? What did he feel while he hunted down Wernher von Braun in Germany? And, more tenderly, what did he see in the young girl he met in Baltimore after returning home from the war? A study in intellect, violence, and displacement, his grandfather is engaging on the ground level while also serving as a kind of metaphor for Cold War America. And Chabon writes tenderly about his grandparents relationshiphis grandmother was a horror-flick host on local TV and suffered from mental illness her husband was ill-equipped to handle. Chabons theme is the storytelling (i.e., lies) people lean on to survive through complicated times: The world, like the Tower of Babel or my grandmothers deck of cards, was made out of stories, and it was always on the verge of collapse. A noble enough theme, but Chabon is an inveterate overwriter who dilutes his best storytelling with more ponderous digressionson the manufacture of the V-2 rocket, model-making, Thomas Pynchon, and the relationships his widowed grandfather pursued before his death. Hes captured a fine story about the poignancy of two souls survival but also too many others about plenty else besides.A heartfelt but sodden family saga.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2016
    A young writer named Michael Chabon listens in breath-held astonishment as his ailing grandfather, whose lifelong reticence has been vanquished by strong painkillers, tells the hidden stories of his past. The real-life Chabon (Telegraph Avenue, 2012), a master of the ravishing sentence and the entrancing tale, creates, in his most beautifully realized novel to date, avidly realized scenes of mayhem and enchantment as his narrator's ingenious and intractable maternal grandfather, an electrical engineer obsessed with moon missions, recounts his hardscrabble South Philly boyhood, clandestine adventures in WWII Germany tracking down Nazi scientists (especially the man behind the V-2 rocket, Wernher von Braun), and his severely tested love for a deeply damaged French Holocaust survivor. A warrior to the end, he also regales his attentive grandson with hilarious incidents of more recent vintage involving his courting a neighbor at an assisted-living community in Florida by hunting a python she fears has devoured her cat. As towering a figure as the grandfather is, all of Chabon's characters are complex and commanding, including his alter-ego narrator's pragmatic attorney mother, who, as a stoic only child, was left with her Uncle Ray, a rabbi turned hustler, after her mother's harrowing struggle with her demons (so eerily dramatized) led to her being institutionalized, and her father's volcanic rage delivered him to prison. Chabon's grandly arching plot encompasses everything from early television to a moment of stargazing awe shared (between bombardments) by a German priest and a Jewish American soldier to the grim symbiosis between science and war crimes as America's military striving gives rise to the space program. All areenacted beneath the bewitching light of the moon, which summons romance ( Moonglow, a jazz standard, offers the refrain: It must have been moonglow / That led me straight to you ), madness, and the high tides of war and ambition. Grandfather tells grandson, After I'm gone, write it down. Explain everything. Make it mean something. Chabon succeeds. By deftly infusing each spellbinding page with historical facts entertaining and tragic, effervescent imagination, exceptional emotional intricacies, striking social insights, brilliantly modulated drama, canny wit, and profound and uplifting empathy and compassion, Chabon has created a masterful and resounding novel of the dark and blazing forces that forged our tumultuous, confounding, and precious world. Expect the cross-country author tour to get literary-fiction readers buzzing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

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