Michael Chabon’s words came to me first in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the Pulitzer-Prize winner of 2001. In large part due to my father’s own interest in 1940s and 1950s-era “Classic Comic ” books (he swears he passed college literature by reading the comic book versions only of Les Misérables and Moby Dick, among others), I fell in love with Michael Chabon’s writing. His words in Moonglow, a novel that reads like a memoir with a narrator named “Mike Chabon” enhanced my admiration.
Moonglow is Chabon’s ode to perhaps his idealized family history: a grandfather who was a rocket man, part John Wayne-part John Glenn; a grandmother who was a French Jew, a traitor to her country and her faith, a witch and a wise woman; a scandalous rabbi uncle, cheating father, confused mother. The man can definitely turn a phrase. Consider:
At the possibility of truly being seen, something in his chest seemed to snap open like a parachute.
He felt the shock of contact. The weight of her against his chest felt like something she had decided to entrust to him.
And finally, the image that has stayed with me for days:
In his fitful eastward progress through Belgium and Germany that winter, my grandfather had shared all manner of billets: with dogfaces and officers, in misery and in comfort, in attack and in retreat, and pinned down by snow or German ordnance. He had bedded down under a bearskin in a schloss and in foxholes flecked pink with the tissue of previous occupants. If an hour’s sleep were to be had, he seized it, in the bedrooms or basements of elegant townhouses, in ravaged hotels, on clean straw and straw that crawled with vermin, on featherbeds and canvas webbing slung across the bed of a half-truck, on mud, sandbags, and raw pine planks. However wretched, accommodations were always better or no worse than those on the enemy side.
He can definitely turn a phrase. Moonglow is Chabon’s love letter to perhaps his idealized family history: a grandfather who was a rocket man, part John Wayne-part John Glenn; a grandmother who was a French Jew, a traitor to her country and her faith, a witch and a wise woman; a scandalous rabbi uncle, cheating father, confused mother.
On his deathbed, Mike Chabon’s grandfather makes a confession: he was the one who found Wernher von Braun’s stock of V-2 plans, undercutting the Nazi SS officer’s (and father of the NASA Moon Shot) ability to negotiate his escape from Germany. From this confession, Mike uncovers more family secrets that he is not sure he really wants to know.
Chabon’s novel gleams with aurulent moonlight. From the character’s star-watching hobby, to grandfather’s rocket building, and the moon glow songs of the war era, Chabon the author rarely misses a chance to include a lunar reference.
I listened to Moonglow on the audible app and truly enjoyed the narrator’s voice, pacing, and flair for French, German, Southern, etc, accents. It was something I looked forward to turning on when I got into the car for a drive.
With the family secrets angle, the World War II history, a romance, and several mysteries, Chabon’s Moonglow has something for everyone and is a good choice for a book club. I do recommend it. And I am especially excited to recommend a menu and music. Each fall, I enjoy throwing a Harvest Moon Party featuring “moon music” and food. I hope you enjoy.
Full Moon Cocktails contain 1 1/2 ounce orange curaçao and 1 1/2 ounce amaretto served over ice.
Or make Full Moon Punch
- 2 (750-milliliter) bottles white rum
- 2 cups applejack
- 3 cups Velvet Falernum
- 1 cup Campari
- 3 cups cranberry juice
- 3 cups orange juice
- Juice of 6 large lemons (about 1 cup)
- 2 liters ginger ale
- 2 large lemons, thinly sliced
- 2 medium limes, thinly sliced
- 2 medium Gala or Fuji apples, thinly sliced
INSTRUCTIONS: Combine rum, applejack, Velvet Falernum, Campari, cranberry juice, orange juice, lemon juice, and ginger ale in a large punch bowl. Add ice and stir until well blended and chilled, about 40 times. Top with lemon, lime, and apple slices, and serve over ice in a punch glass.
Mezzelune Pasta. This half-moon shaped pasta (mezzelune) is similar to ravioli and you can find it filled with many of the same ravioli-typical fillings: cheese, meats, nuts, etc. I generally use a simply butter and parmesan sauce for the pasta.
Moon Pies. Make (or buy) very thin chocolate chip cookies. Tate’s Bake Shop cookies work well. On the flat side of a cookie, spread marshmallow cream then top it with another cookie. Make as many sets as you will serve. Then dip half of the cookie/marshmallow cream combo in melted chocolate and allow to cool. This will earn raves!
(Or you could find some of that astronaut ice cream they sell at the Air & Space Museum)
This is a fun one! So many great songs.
Moondance/My Funny Valentine Van Morrison
Moon River Andy Williams
Moonlight Sonata Chopin
Moonlight Serenade Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
Blue Moon of Kentucky Béla Fleck
East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon) Diana Krall
Clair De Lune Debussy
Moonlight Serenade Frank Sinatra
Sister Moon Sting
Moonlight In Vermont
Fly Me To The Moon Diana Krall, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra — any version you love
It’s Only a Paper Moon Ella Fitzgerald
Blue Moon The Marcels
Mike Chabon — Jason Schwartzman
Grandmother — Juliette Binoche
Mother — Alison Brie
Grandfather — Eric Bana
Uncle Ray — David Krumholtz
Happy Eating and Reading!