Michael Chabon’s new novel, “Summerland,” is meant for kids, but it’s just as rangy, eccentric, dreamy and funky as his books for adults. Chabon, an avid reader in his own childhood of classic children’s fantasy series by such authors as Susan Cooper and C.S. Lewis, decided he wanted to try his hand at the genre and bring to it a set of American mythic motifs. “Summerland” takes baseball as its theme, a game full of heroism, but one also redolent of nostalgia and the sting of inevitable failure.
The novel’s hero, Ethan Feld, is a reluctant player trying to please his baseball-smitten widower dad on a small island off the coast of Washington state. When he’s enlisted by a supernatural scout to help rescue this world and the magical world called the Summerlands from the schemes of the trickster god Coyote, Ethan has to step up to the plate in more ways than one. He gathers the necessary entourage of friends and sidekicks and sets off on an epic journey across the Summerlands, encountering thunderbirds, giants, ferishers (a roughneck breed of fairies), Sasquatch and a half-dozen tall-tale folk heroes along the way.
Chabon kicked off his literary career with the dazzling “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” (1988), adapted his 1995 novel “Wonder Boys” into an acclaimed film in 2000 and won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” He had been intending to write a book like “Summerland” for almost 30 years, but the many new fans the novel is sure to earn him won’t have to wait quite so long for the sequels. He signed a contract to write two of them. Chabon dropped by the Salon offices recently to talk with us about the creation of the Summerlands, his passion for baseball and the vanishing adventure of American childhood.
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