I can sum up my experience reading Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road by comparing it to reading an entire text in Edward Script ITC: Very Lovely, but Sometimes Difficult to Decipher.
Chabon’s language winds and wends in so many different directions; I found it both beautiful and headache-inducing. The novel is about two unlikely friends – Amram, the giant African, and Zelikman, the scarecrow from Francia. They are, indeed, “gentlemen of the road,” going where the wind and fortune take them. Early in the book they get caught up in the affairs of an embattled royal bent on revenge and reclamation of the family throne. The storyline is peppered with a high body count (though none of it is grisly) and plenty of clever revelations to make the story interesting. I found the two main characters charming and complex, though the dense writing style still kept them at arm’s length from me.
I felt like I earned something while reading this book – it really was that difficult for me to process (and it’s only 196 pages!). I can’t put my finger on what made it so hard, or why I enjoyed it so much. I read the author’s afterword, and even in a more conversational tone, I found Chabon diffult to “follow.” My husband read and enjoyed his young adult novel Summerland, and his Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay has been recommended to be by many people. Even though I often felt confused in the maze of this book’s language, I know I’ll eventually give Chabon another try.
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