"Citizen Conn"
by Michael Chabon
Originally published in the February 13 & 20, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.

I believe my work / life balance shifted dramatically in the favor of life today, so I hope to get caught up shortly — and this double issue gives me a bit of time to do it.

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By |2016-07-11T18:26:05-04:00February 8th, 2012|Categories: Michael Chabon, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |4 Comments


  1. Jon February 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I thought this was a hack job. At best, a few of the characters reach the level of archtypes (“tough old Jew”), but for the most part, they felt inconsistent and not fleshed out (the only identifying feature of the Rabbi’s husband the author could come up with was that he carried around a Swiss Army knife? Lame.)

    To borrow a theme from a past poster, this felt like Chabon wanted to capitalize more on the research he’d already done on comics, for his novel, so he threw together a hacky story (and maybe spent an afternoon in a retirement home for extra research; and he makes sure the reader knows it by throwing in some pointless details early in the story.)

    The New Yorker piece I read before this was the long-form story on the Rutgers suicide / roommate spying story. That felt pointlessly sensationalist and voyeuristic, and so ultimately annoying. This story was in the same vein–it tried to give itself weight by dealing with death, long-term friendships, etc. in the same way that the Rutgers story tried to be consequential by touching on gay rights, youth culture, etc., but both left a bad taste in one’s mouth and felt empty.

    Seeing another sensationalist article in the current issue on face transplants (the victim went to the same hospital as Kennedy when he was shot!!!) reinforces the sense that the New Yorker is just increasingly cheesy…

  2. jerry February 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    This almost seems like a retread just changing names from Kavalier and Clay but having said that, i still like the story and being a devoted fan of 60s comics it rings true to me.

  3. Aaron February 13, 2012 at 5:51 am

    I get to agree with Jon this time around; though to a lesser extent. I enjoy Chabon’s writing, but I think his attention to details — he provides flourishes even for his generalities — is more fit for longer works (in which the lists and setting won’t seem to take up so much space or feel so unnecessary). Consequently, as Jerry notes, this does feel like a retread, as if Chabon still had scraps of research left over from other work that he wanted to pour out into a story. I find myself more dazzled by Jashar Awan’s illustration for this story than by the writing itself, which only really catches my interest at the very end, where it attempts to draw a conclusion about happiness and human cluelessness that I was particularly susceptible to.

    In any case, I think the flattened prose of this piece is what hurts “Citizen Conn” the most. Comics leap off the page, whether in exclamatory language or with provocative images, and although Chabon has shown himself capable of such Moorcockian elan (that serial he did for the New York Times way back when), it’s missing here; all we get are dry facts, drier characters, and only the glint of the weighty, meaty underlying human problems.

    More, as always, here: http://shortaday.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/michael-chabon-citizen-conn/

  4. Ken March 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    I found this to be almost all on the surface-perhaps a bit like Aaron found it dry-with little subtext or resonance. As genre fiction, i.e. where you read because you’re interested in a mystery being unraveled, it was fine but the big epiphany at the end seemed really sentimental and unoriginal.

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