Author: Michael Chabon
Published: 2007 in serial form in The New York Times
2008 in book form by Del Rey (Ballantine) Books
Read For: Monday Night Book Club
Chosen By: Suzanne, February 2010
My Rating: 2 stars (below average, sorry)
I don't like disliking books. As silly as that may sound, I say it because I want to make the point that I am typically an optimistic person, and like to find the good things about everyone and everything, I like to broaden my horizons and I try to be open minded. One of the reasons I really enjoy my book club is because it forces me to branch out and read things that I would not otherwise choose. Every once in a while, however, I need to be honest and admit that I am simply not a fan.
Gentlemen of the Road is my first experience with Michael Chabon's writing, and I have to say that I enjoyed reading the Afterword far more than I did the novel itself. Because of that, I'm going to guess that this was not the best novel with which to begin reading his works, especially considering that another of his novels won a Pulitzer Prize, an honor much easier to imagine after reading the Afterword. Unfortunately, my dislike of how the novel was written may prevent me from reading anything else of his for quite a while.
The premise of the story is interesting, as was the actual story itself, when it could be found. An old fashioned adventure tale taking place in the 10th century, the story centered around two men trying to earn a living, one gig at a time, and inadvertently get caught up in the fight for a kingdom. The style of writing, however, did not match the style of the story and resulted in something that felt amateurish. The style of writing itself was disjointed, the dialogue having a very different feel from the narrative. Ideally, it would have been Charles Dickens (complex sentences and descriptions) meets Alexander Dumas (swashbuckling adventure) but poor execution resulted in that remaining the ideal, not the reality. The first chapter, especially, seemed stilted and uninviting, and felt very strongly of thesaurus overuse. At only 196 pages it didn't take too long to read, for which I'm grateful. Have you read it? Leave me a comment, I'd love to be proven wrong.
An excerpt from page 6:
The Frankish scarecrow slipped out from under his impaled hat and unfolded himself one limb at a time, running his fingers along the parting in his yellow hair. He looked from the African to the hat and back. His cloak, trousers, hose and boots were all black, in sharp contrast with the pallor of his soft hands and the glints of golden whisker on his chin and cheeks, and if he was not a priest, the he must, thought the mahout, for whom a knowledge of men was a necessary corollary to an understanding of elephants, be a physician or an exegete of moldering texts. The Frank folded his arms over his bony chest and stood taking the African's measure along the rule of his bony nose. He wore an arch smile and held his head at an angle meant to signify a weary half-amusement like that which plagued a philosophical man when he contemplated this vain human show.