These stories are not for me. Chabon paints sad little miniatures of futile, fearful people. The fat 11-year-old whose family falls apart, the man who despises his wife for marrying a man “whose touch left her vagina as dry as a fist,” the husband who got displaced by a rapist’s sperm. Each character is such a small and suffocating person in a tiny glass world that I’m amazed the font itself didn’t shrink as I read. If I had a chord to be touched, I would say these are wonderfully apt portraits of American despair, but instead I think, “Why am I reading about these losers?” Get a divorce! Get a job! A graduate degree can baptize you.
I found myself reading, uninterested in the characters, for incongruous bits of Chabon’s observation. He writes in passing of people “working on the cathedrals of their bad decisions,” though none of the characters could phrase such thoughts. It puts even more impossible distance between reader and subject, but it’s also like biting into real blueberries in a store-bought muffin.