V-2 into Space
Every now and then a novelist produces a book that has a novelist at its centre, bearing his actual name (the condition affects males disproportionately) and drawing on aspects of his life that are in the public domain, while also exercising the freedom to invent. This isn’t done because of a shortage of real-world material, let alone from self-importance – it’s an investigation into the instability of genre and the shifting nature of literary truth. That’s the excuse, anyway. For a while in the 1980s it looked as if Philip Roth would never recover from this syndrome, this affliction of the desk-bound and lionised, and J.M. Coetzee too showed signs of becoming a chronic case. Now Michael Chabon has produced Moonglow, supposedly based on conversations from 1989 between a writer called Michael Chabon and his dying grandfather, an engineer for whom space travel in general and rockets in particular were an obsession.
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