Author profile: Novelist and comics fanatic Michael Chabon

Justin McIntosh, Columbus Alive

Author Michael Chabon's digressions are passionate and seemingly all-encompassing, veering from superhero comics (he's not a fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, preferring the "Sherlock-Holmes-in-a-costume" version of the Dark Detective) to cult-favorite cartoonists like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes.

Thoughts on the history of genre and genre-blending in literature can easily shift into a discussion on the market factors at play in German novellas and what comes next after the Internet monoculture finally consumes everything and does away with genre altogether ("I don't know, that's the big question, right?").

He'll drop names (Joyce, Poe, Dickens, Cheever, Atwood, McCarthy) and story titles as if he has an infinite war chest of impossibly relevant and highly specific references to detonate at any moment. It's often a head rush just to keep up.

His written sentences are similar, somehow both dense and accessible, easy to follow and a thrill to untangle. As soon as one seems to end, it'll expand and reveal something new and surprising, like a house with secret passageways and rooms. And these beautiful constructs are littered with words and references you'll feel compelled to immediately look up.

Which is to say Chabon's Thursday appearance at CCAD's Visiting Artists & Scholarly Series should be just as smart, interesting and wide-ranging. The free event, a conversation between Chabon and Jared Gardner, a professor in Ohio State's Department of English and Film Studies program, is expected to cover the "nexus of film and screenwriting, comics and literature," though Chabon said it could include "just about anything."

That could include the screenplay he wrote for the then-panned "John Carter," or his recent forays into music. Chabon wrote the lyrics to most of Mark Ronson's Uptown Special (though not, apparently, for the hit single "Uptown Funk"), and before that, he made headlines for annotating the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker The Berry" on the lyrics-annotation website month, Chabon continued further down that path, signing with Universal Music Publishing Group as an in-house songwriter.

What's most likely to come up, however, is Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," a novel about cousins who become influential cartoonists during comics' golden era. It's his most popular work, and it won him a Pulitzer Prize for the way it depicted the struggle of Jewish-Americans to assimilate after World War II.

The novel was a huge stylistic leap forward for the author, too. His earliest work was much more monochromatic and flush with realism. Mostly small, slice-of-life tales, just like the short stories he was taught to write in writing workshops.

But then something pivoted within him.

"I decided it doesn't have to be this way," Chabon said. "There should be more space, more room. Art is about taking freedom, taking liberties. That kind of turned it for me, that's when I started thinking maybe I could take a different direction without straying at all from my interests and tastes as a reader."

Canzani Center Auditorium

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15

60 Cleveland Ave., Discovery District