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Able to leap over literary barriers in a single book

Chabon ranges from Kabbalah to Captain Nemo

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When Michael Chabon was just 8 years old, baseball broke his heart. He can remember watching the Senators on TV with his dad in a Washington suburb. "Then they were packed up in the dead of the night and shipped off to Texas and became the Rangers," he says. "How can that be? How can they let that happen? It's like trying to explain to my children, how can an election possibly be stolen? And, of course, Texas, once again, was involved there."

Such sentiments conjure all of Mr. Chabon's sensibilities: childlike wonder hardened by adult reality, blended with humor and resignation.

Over the years, he's switched baseball affiliations a couple of times, first to the Pittsburgh Pirates and, later, the San Francisco Giants, nearer his Berkeley home. But Chabon's literary career is far less checkered than his baseball romances: At 23, his thesis manuscript was sent by a professor to an agent and garnered the highest advance ever paid for a debut literary novel. "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" became a bestseller, followed by another hit, "Wonder Boys," a winking nod to fellow writers blessed and burdened by early literary success. In 2000, Chabon took all the promise of those works and melded it with a childhood passion - comic books - to write, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Today, he is, simply, the coolest writer in America. This month, he released two new books. The first is a novella, "The Final Solution," evincing, in part, a long-acknowledged love of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works. The second is a collection of spine-tingling short stories he edited for McSweeney's called "Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories." Contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Roddy Doyle, and Jonathan Lethem. Next fall he'll deliver a new novel, "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," which involves, among other things, a modern-day Jewish homeland in Alaska.


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