A Single Duality

At first glance, Michael Ondaatje and Michael Chabon may seem like an odd pair to share a stage. Aside from each having a new book to plug and the same first name, the two have little in common, superficially. Ondaatje is the author of sober-minded historical fiction, most memorably The English Patient, which inspired the lavish blockbuster of the same name. On the other side is Chabon, who raises long-maligned genre and pulp forms to the level of literature, as in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, his love letter to Jewish tradition and the silver age of comic books, as well as the alternative-history neo-noir The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. But the two share some fundamental traits, including a devotion to craft, an archivist’s eye for historical minutiae, and an eagerness to experiment with form. In a rare instance of symmetry, Ondaatje’s latest, The Cat’s Table, is a rip-roaring tale of a boy’s adventure from Ceylon to England during the 1950s, while Chabon is promoting his first children’s book, the adjective-packed The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. The duo discuss their work, common ground, and the craft of writing in this conversation benefitting 826 Valencia’s scholarship program.
Mon., Oct. 17, 8 p.m., 2011

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