Thirty Days of Stories: Day One

Title: Citizen Conn

Michael Chabon

Appears in: Uncollected, first published in The New Yorker, February 13 & 20, 2012.

A female rabbi in an elderly care facility witnesses the ruined friendship between two Siver Age comic creators.

Thoughts: Chabon returns to the sandbox he built in his Pulitzer-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. If Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay were Chabon’s fictional analogues of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, ‘Citizen Conn’s Mort Feather and Artie Conn are his Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It quickly becomes apparent that what could have been a cheap polemic on creator’s rights is actually the story of the sad deterioration of the greatest friendship either man ever had.  By having the story narrated by an outsider [even if I do roll my eyes at Chabon and so many other authors’ attempts to crowbar Judaica into every possible scenario] with no connection to comics fandom, Chabon cleverly avoids having any of his characters erode into cheap villains.  As a comic fan, I might have enjoyed more ‘inside baseball’ about the industry, but Chabon knows that’s not where the story is.  Telling it through the rabbi humanizes everything, and presents one of those tiny human tragedies that frequently populate our lives.

Lesson learned: Know when to pull the point of view out from the action; select your narrator wisely.

Favourite line: “I didn’t know what to say, how to explain to him that this — our everlasting human cluelessness — was his unforgivable sin.”

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