I’ve been a fan of Michael Chabon for years. I read “Kavalier and Clay” mostly on buses during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. I also enjoyed “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” from 2007. Published in the same year was “Gentlemen of the Road,” which ran as a 15-part serial in The New York Times Magazine. I liked the characters, but this book, set in the year 1,000, describing an ancient Jewish Kingdom, set in Khazaria (Ukraine). Chabon used a lot of words and names that I did not recognize, like shatranj (chess), pogrom (riot), bek (general), Arsiyah (Muslim mercenaries), Radanite and mahout (elephant rider). That made it difficult for me to follow.
Chabon also alludes to other books and stories, references I did not catch and then couldn’t appreciate. The Guardian’s review called the story “a literary exercise,” like the author was challenging himself. This book has a very low rating on Goodreads, 3.44, from 13,000 readers, one who wrote “Grandiloquent verbosity and overlong sentences make what should be an escapist tale a needlessly bothersome read.” It’s supposed to be a swashbuckling adventure that is a tribute to a style of writing from bygone years, i.e., Alexandre Dumas. Another reader wrote, “Page long paragraphs with only two sentences. I’d get to the end and find myself thinking, ‘huh?’” That was me as well.