Kalimac Crafts (and assorted other bits and bobs)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Book Review - Summerland

Summerland, by Michael Chabon. copyright 2002.

A reread, although I had managed to forget everything that happened after a certain point. A fabulous example of modern myth, combining Norse mythology with baseball with American folklore; the protagonist (Ethan Feld) and his best friend (Jennifer T.) have to jump from branch to branch on the World Tree, picking up a baseball team along the way, to ultimately play a final game of baseball against Coyote and prevent Ragged Rock. Like I said, a glorious mix.

Chabon's writing is sweet and sharp, often surprisingly sad. As with all good kid's books, this reads just as well for adults as children, and shows grief, fantasy, love...all those good things, more deeply than many adult books. The book is a wonderful adventure story, but what really attracted me was the grab-bag of myths. He's blending Americana (the 'giants' who are not so giant anymore - I was able to recognize my beloved Joe Magarac, Paul Bunyan and I think Pecos Bill), some made-up and real baseball stars, baseball itself, Norse mythology and Native American mythos. And a lot of these of course - the folk-heros, and coyote, and the traveling band fighting to save the world (I think there are even nine of them at one point!) - are archetypes, who appear over and over again. Chabon is showing us what the modern myth is becoming, the kind of made-up Indian lore of the Wa-He-Ta boys combined with....everything. It hearkens to Gaiman's American Gods, where the immigrants bring their gods, and everyone, man and deity, mix it up together.

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