Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Hello, dear readers!
I’m Michael Chabon, the world’s most successful comic-book fanboy and the beloved, hunky writer of Wonder Boys and Spider-Man 2. Residents of Berkeley might also recognize me as the sensitive hunk Mr. December from the “Literary Beefcake” Save the Public Library charity calendar. I’d just like to say that I love all of you, whether you’ve read my work or not. Also, I’d like to say a brief word about my book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (a.k.a Les Extraordinaires Aventures de Kavalier y Clay).
This heartwarming book told the charming story of two Jewish cousins in the second quarter of the 20th century who hated Nazis (because they were Jewish), and to get back at Hitler, they invented a comic-book superhero called the Escapist. There was also a part in Antarctica, and Salvador Dalí showed up and got stuck in a helmet. The point is there was this whole escapism theme going on. It was pretty cool.
I won a Pulizer for it, and it’s soon going to be a major motion picture starring Jason Biggs and Wilmer Valderrama. Neato!
Anyway, I presented the story with occasional textbook-like explanations, notations, and citations, including a note from the world’s foremost authority on the character and its creators (me!). These authentic-seeming marginalia were clever gimmicks to enhance the veracity of the world I was constructing. I even went so far as to “present” an anthology of “recently rediscovered” vintage tales from the Golden and Silver Ages of comics featuring the amazing adventures of the Escapist, his girlfriend the Moth Lady, and Secret Squirrel, a detective rodent who solves mysteries. Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, Volume I, published by Dark Horse Comics, 152 pages, color, $14.95, available at your local comic-book-and-baseball-card store.
However, I’d like to be state clearly and for the record that, believable as it all may’ve sounded, Kavalier and Clay were not real people, and the Escapist character never existed.
I made the whole thing up! It was a good story, but a fake one. I’m sorry if I misled anyone, but that was not my intention. I thought everyone knew that when I perpetually wink and nudge you in the side with my elbow, it’s not because I have nervous tics or am really awkward when I flirt. It’s because I was trying to let you in on my joke.
If you believed what I’d written to be a factual account of real people and events, please do not feel that you are stupid. It’s just that I’m a really good storyteller, and you’re a really good story reader. Heck, if I didn’t know I was making it up, I’d probably have believed it too. Maybe.
After all, it wasn’t totally fiction; most of the things I describe actually did happen to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack “King” Kirby, Stan “The Man” Lee, Will Eisner, and Cathy Guisewhite. You can read more about them in a brief bibliography I’ve attached to the end of this sort-of apology. (All titles and authors are 100% real-deal non-fiction.)
Still, I’m sorry if you believed me. I thought everybody knew I was telling a made-up story, which isn’t really lying in the bad way. It’s part of my job as a novelist, just like journalists, news anchors, and elected officials. I’m pretty sure the Pulitzer Department at Columbia University realized this, because the plaque the little gold guy is holding reads fiction. Fiction is when it’s O.K. to tell a lie.
If you’re one of my cherished readers who mistook my fanciful fable for fact, I’m sorry if my nearsightedness caused you grief. If I may spare you some future grief, I’d advise not sharing your mistake with other people, because they will jump to the conclusion that you are not very smart, when the truth is I’m just a fantastic writer.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve never encountered werewolves in their youth, and there’s no such thing as a Yiddish policeman. I did go to baseball camp one summer, but there’s really nothing to speak of there. Well, one thing, but whatever.
Oh, but I really, honestly, truly, for-reals saw a golem once. His name was Stan. Stan the golem. He was a big mother of a thing. Filthy, and he smelled like burnt feces. But, hey—you know how golems are.
For more information, please read:
“Lie, Memory: Michael Chabon’s Own Private Holocaust” by Paul Maliszewski, Bookforum
“Fiction, Hoax or Neither? A Literary Dust-Up” by Alex Mindland, The New York Times
Spanish cover art via The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay