Family Lore

Michael Chabon has written about superheroes and alternate histories. His new memoiristic novel required just as much imagination.

MOONGLOW will be published on November 22.

LET’S GET THIS out of the way: Michael Chabon’s new book, Moonglow, is 99 percent fiction, and any resemblance between him and the memoirist narrating it (also named Michael Chabon) is nothing more than trickery. Nor should this sleight-of-hand be unexpected: From the Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to the realist narrative of his last novel, 2012’s Telegraph Avenue, most of Chabon’s work can be classified as “speculative” fiction. Moonglow, inspired in part by his grandfather’s deathbed tales, is Chabon’s speculative history of his own family. What if his grandfather had ratted out Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket designer turned engineer of the American moon landing? What if his grandmother was a Holocaust-haunted actress stalked by an imaginary “Skinless Horse”? Chabon, 53, spoke to New York about how much memoir needs to be in a memoir, his lunch date with Thomas Pynchon, whether or not Bob Dylan deserves a Nobel Prize, and saying a reluctant good-bye to President Obama.

BORIS KACHKA: Your real-life grandfather told you stories on his deathbed. Did you always know you’d do something with them, like use them in a novel?

MICHAEL CHABON: Quite the contrary. I’d planned to work on something else, but I woke up one morning thinking about a story

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

New York Magazine 11/27/16

Read all 29 articles in this issue