Picks and Pans Review: A Model World and Other Stories
The buoyancy and wit that marked Chabon's debut novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, is evident from the first sentence in this short story collection: "On the morning of his cousin's wedding Ira performed his toilet, as he always did, with patience, hope, and a ruthless punctilio."
That story, "S Angel," concerns a doomed flirtation at the wedding reception. Ira is a specialist in precarious relationships, like most of Chabon's protagonists. The title character in "Blumenthal on the Air," for instance, is a radio DJ who marries an Iranian woman so she can gain citizenship, then complains when their arrangement doesn't lead to romance.
Some entries, such as "Ocean Avenue" and a cycle of coming-of-age stories that make up the end of the book, are cluttered with detail and mawkish emotion. But Chabon's observations are always a delight. "His mother had a Disney whistle," he writes in "The Little Knife," "melodious and full, like a Scotsman's as he walks across a meadow in a brilliant kilt."
Endearing too are the sweet, sensitive guys who people Chabon's writing. They're emotional hemophiliacs, heartbreaks just waiting to happen. (Morrow, $18.95)