Michael Chabon Biography
Novelist, screenwriter, columnist and short story writer Michael Chabon was
born May 24, 1963 in Washington, DC. He grew up in the suburbs of
Columbia, Maryland with his parents Robert, a physician, lawyer, and hospital
administrator, and Sharon, a lawyer. His parents divorced when he was about 11,
and Michael Chabon lived with his mother. He grew up reading comic books and
knew from an early age that he wanted to be a writer. In 1984 he graduated
from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English. In 1987, he
received a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Irvine.
His master's thesis was the novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a
coming-of-age story about a man caught between romances with a man on one side,
a woman on the other, and the shadow of his gangster father over it all.
Apparently Chabon never intended to publish it but his professor,
thinking it so good, secretly sent the manuscript to an agent. The book
not only found a publisher but Chabon was awarded an advance of $155,000.
the time this was the highest figure ever paid for a first novel by a young,
unknown fiction writer. The book was published with a six-figure first
printing and earned a place on the bestseller lists.
Looking back on his early success some years later (in 2001), Chabon reflected
that the "the upside [to my early success] was that I was published and I got a
readership[, the] downside....was that, emotionally, this stuff started
happening and I was still like, 'Wait a minute, is my thesis done yet?' It took
me a few years to catch up. And I was married at the time to someone else who
was also a struggling writer, and the success created a gross imbalance in our
careers, which was problematic."
Chabon's first marriage, to poet Lollie Groth, ended in 1991. At the
time he was struggling with his sophomore novel called Fountain City.
At one point he submitted a 672-page draft to his editor who disliked it,
but Chabon was reluctant to drop the novel as he'd already signed a contract and
half of his advance had gone to his ex-wife. Eventually, he decided
to abandon the novel and, after staring at a blank computer screen for hours,
started to write The Wonder Boys, in which an author is hopelessly stuck
writing his endless, shapeless novel He completed The Wonder Boys in just
seven months without telling his agent that he had stopped work on Fountain
City. The Wonder Boys was published in 1995 and was made into a movie in 2000.
Inspired by Jonathan Yardley's review in The Washington Post, in which Yardley
praised The Wonder Boys but suggested that it was time that Chabon took "the
next step up", Chabon started on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,
the story of
two young, Jewish comic book artists in the 1940s that blended the world of
comic books, the impact of World War II and the lives of his characters.
It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.
In 2002 he published Summerland, a fantasy novel for younger readers. In
2004 he published The Final Solution, a mystery starring an elderly Sherlock Holmes.
Between 1987 and 1990 he published a number of short stories, mostly in The New
Yorker, but also in Gentleman's Quarterly and Mademoiselle. Some of these are
collected in A Model World
(1991), a second set of short stories, Werewolves in their Youth, was
published in 1999. Chabon has also written a number of pieces for DC Comics,
and co-wrote the story for Spider-Man 2.
From Jan to May 2007, a 15-part serialized novel, Gentlemen of
the Road, ran in the New York Times Magazine; Chabon describes it as "a
swashbuckling adventure story set around the year 1000"; and in May 2007 he
published The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
Chabon lives in
Berkeley, California, with his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their four children.
This biography was last updated on 08/25/2011.
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