“Citizen Conn” by Michael Chabon


(Above image from the New Yorker)

For week four of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of clubs, leading me to Michael Chabon’s story, “Citizen Conn.” Clubs are my suit for “stories from The New Yorker” this year, and this one was first published in the February 13, 2012 issue. An explanation of the Deal Me In Challenge may be found here. The complete list of stories I will be reading is here. For links to other participants’ story rosters, see the week 1 post here. If you’d like to explore other blogs that are participating in the Deal Me In challenge, see the participant links on my sidebar.

2015/01/img_5365.jpgJanuary must be “superheroes month” here at Bibliophilopolis. This story is the third superhero-related reading I’ve done in just a couple weeks: My week two story for Deal Me In (John David Anderson’s “El Estocada”) featured a middle aged superhero in a bookstore then, one of the bookclubs I participate in had selected the Graphic novel “Watchmen” for their January read, and now I encounter my first Michael Chabon story, which is the tale of a pair of estranged comic authors, Mort Feather and Artie Conn, the former holding a grudge the origins of which the latter misunderstands.

In their younger years, they were at the forefront of a revival – perhaps even a revolution – of superhero comics:

They started with the old Black Diamond, Nova’s biggest star during the war years. Today you can buy a tattered, yellowed copy of the first issue of The New Adventures of the Black Diamond, dated January, 1960, for about twenty thousand dollars. The Elf and a few other revivals followed, then Feather and Conn began to create new characters, drawn from world mythology and the principles of physics and chemistry. The canvas grew broad, encompassing other galaxies and planes of reality; the characters, cranky and pixilated and neurotic in a hip, late-fifties style, approached, for the first time in the history of comic books, three dimensions.”

But when we meet them – via a female rabbi narrator – they are much older, and Feather is a dying man living out his final days in the Zion Pointe nursing home. The rabbi first meets Feather when he is refusing to answer the door to his room, a door which Conn stands outside pleading that he’s ” …driven three hours, you can can at least give me five goddamn minutes!”

What is the source of this acrimony? The rabbi, in an effort to help the two reconcile before Feather “kicks off” learns more about the two men’s history, but will she – or we – ever really know or understand the reason for the rift? You can read the story yourself and find out. As of this time, it may be read for free on line at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/02/13/citizen-conn

This may not have been one of my favorite stories, but I really did appreciate the writing of Chabon (below). Some favorite quotations:


(Mort) had “a forehead with a series of deep old scars like a line of cuneiform.”

“I had already learned to expect very little from the rooms of old people. There were some, most of them women, who transported into the last two hundred square feet of their lives, if not the entire composition, at least a kind of abstract of their abandoned houses and histories”

“He shrugged again. Aged Jews tend to shrug with practiced eloquence, expressing subtle fluctuations in the nature of their doubt.”

I also found the very cool 8 of clubs image below on line: check out the following from project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/44594/44594-h/44594-h.htm



  1. Paula Cappa said,

    January 23, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Jay, I’m just discovering Chabon as a writer. I read “In The Black Mill” which blew me away. I found an interview about him where he spoke of his writing process. He said “I begin with an image, usually, or a vague feeling of some kind — a longing for a place, a person a time… then I try to figure out who my characters might be…what kind of people I associate with the above-mentioned feeling or longing… Once I have my characters I try to find a narrator, and then let my narrator help me find a way into a story…only when I’ve got about forty to fifty pages do I sit down a make an outline. Then I try to outline very carefully.”


    • Jay said,

      January 25, 2015 at 8:52 am

      Thanks for sharing that, Paula. What an interesting approach! I like how he gives his idea time to grow and mature a bit before he straps the saddle of an outline onto it. (I bet he cooks his meals in a crock pot rather than a skillet too) 🙂


  2. tracybham said,

    January 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I will check out that story. I have only read a bit of Chabon (The Yiddish Policeman’s Union) but I really like his writing in that.


    • Jay said,

      January 25, 2015 at 8:52 am

      This was my first Chabon and it has whetted my appetite. 🙂


  3. Dale said,

    January 23, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Chabon’s “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” is the subject of my first blog post. I’ve also read his book of very funny essays “Manhood for Amateurs”. Most of what I’ve heard about his short stories, though, tends to be negative. This one sounds good, though.


    • Jay said,

      January 25, 2015 at 8:54 am

      I love that title, “Manhood for Amateurs.” That’s great. I remember hearing so much about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay back in the day. Didn’t you have it on the IRC’s bookshelf too?


      • Dale said,

        January 25, 2015 at 9:59 am

        Now that you mention it, I believe I did have it on the bookshelf. I don’t think it got picked so that’s probably why it was the first book I read when I started blogging. I started blogging shortly after IRC ran it’s course.


  4. January 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I remember really disliking it (although, I might be the only person). It really put me off to Michael Chabon. Even when I read a plot synopsis (and they always sound super interesting), I can’t shake that first reading experience. In subsequent years, I’ve heard him lecture, which was quite good, and read his lecture “Golems I Have Known,” which was an interesting piece–especially, knowing its context.


    • Jay said,

      January 29, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Yes, I think you are the only one. 🙂 Well, the only one I’m aware of. I never read TAA of K&C, but almost did on a couple occasions. I was also never really into comics as a kid (well, except for “Classics Illustrated” of course) so maybe that has something to do with it.


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