I suspect my husband judged this book by its cover as he bought it for me. He is a graphic designer. It does have a nice cover, but happily the inner workings are just as nice. I’ve never read any of Chabon’s novels, but I do like books about reading and writing. I find it disconcerting when writers approach reading in a superficial way. Chabon knows his craft and is an advocate, not for his own work, but for work in the ‘borderlands’.
Chabon describes the ‘borderlands’ as a place that defies genre. He seems to dislike the use genres and that horror, sci-fi, fanasy etc are not taken seriously and when a writer like Cormac McCarthy writes something like The Road, critics seem to excuse the lapse, or try to group the novel as something other than horror or sci-fi and call it a parable. Maps and Legends is a group of essays where Chabon examines various works of the borderlands. Some authors I am very familiar with (Arthur Conan Doyle, Cormack McCarthy, Phillip Pullman) for others it was a first introduction (Howard Chaykin, Julius Knipl). Throughout the entire book Chabon reveals his own process both as a reader and as a writer, things that inspire him, and things he aspires to. At times Chabon becomes very personal and it is like reading a journal, at others, it is like reading a critique from a literature class. I enjoyed both aspects and at turns found myself both nodding in agreement and frowning in disagreement. To me, that is the best type of book.
I am aware that this book isn’t for everyone. Though beautifully written, I would only recommend this book to either die hard Chabon fans or those who enjoy learning more about the reading and writing process.