Arts & Culture

The Michael Chabon Interview

Michael Chabon is an expert on a great many things, especially hummus and Alaska. He seemed like the perfect person to turn to for a conversation about Sarah Palin: Jeffrey Goldberg: Isn’t it great that Michael Palin’s sister is running … Read More

By / September 9, 2008

Michael Chabon is an expert on a great many things, especially hummus and Alaska. He seemed like the perfect person to turn to for a conversation about Sarah Palin:

Jeffrey Goldberg: Isn’t it great that Michael Palin’s sister is running for vice president? Michael Chabon: Jeffrey, I fear it might actually be kind of sad that I had exactly the same thought when I first heard her name. At least we can safely assume, at this point, that Governor Palin fully appreciates the deep wisdom contained in that old axiom: nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. JG: Is Sarah Palin Jewish? Her husband was in the Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Or maybe the Steelworkers, I forget. MC: It’s unlikely and, I feel, sort of weird the way this Alaskan lady’s fortunes have become caught up, and so quickly, with those of the Jews. An exhaustive search of press mentions on Lexis-Nexis reveals that, until very recently, "Alaska" and "Jews" had been included in the same sentence only 18 times, ever. I know I probably deserve some of the credit for this uptick, but I decline to accept it. JG: What’s your favorite Alaskan food? MC: I know you want me to say moose. You probably also want me to point out that moose (properly slaughtered of course) is kosher. Same goes for reindeer. I have eaten both, in Juneau, Sitka and Wrangell. Reindeer sausage. Mooseburger. Also fiddlehead ferns and lingonberries. But I’m going to have to go with lox. JG: Alaska. Crazy place, or what? MC: It’s crazy beautiful, that’s for sure. I found it a dark place, and not just because it was literally dark much of time, during my second visit, in late winter. Also, I found it (the place, not the people) hostile, and not just in the sense that wilderness is generally said to be hostile. I kept thinking of that bit from Twin Peaks, where the sheriff says, "There is something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want, a darkness, a presence." Almost everything humans have built there is unbelievably ugly. That might have something to do with the air of resentment given off by the underlying terrain. JG: Do you think Barack Obama has placated whatever fears elderly Jews have of him? MC: Huh, I don’t know, can elderly Jews actually be placated? The Israeli government, as you know, has squandered billions of shekels to date on one ill-starred placation program after another, with results that have been uniformly disappointing, leading it to issue the famous finding: You just can’t alter a kocker. But if anyone can do it, Obama can. JG: Do you think McCain was a) smart, or b) stupid, to pick Palin as his running mate? MC: I think the answer is probably both more pathetic and more chutzpadich than either a) or b) would imply. JG: Are any of your children named Bristol, Willow or Track? MC: I was kind of excited when I thought Willow was a Buffy shout-out. Like, how cool, she named her kid after a Jewish lesbian witch! It was part of this weird, innocent spasm of credit-extending that I experienced on first seeing the Governor in action last Friday. But the moment was very short-lived, alas. I bet she doesn’t even watch Buffy. The names are kind of awesome, in my opinion. But then I have a son named Ezekiel Napoleon Waldman Chabon.

[This is cross-posted from Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic blog, which we think is great, and you should visit often]

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