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Where's a Super Hero When You Need One?

Who Do You Ask to an Event When You Have Two Tickets?

By Janet Eastman
February 27, 2003

TWO tickets are lasering a hole in my hand. They are for Monday’s lecture in Irvine by Michael Chabon, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” his novel about creating a superhero.

One ticket is for me. The other?

That is the question.

Picking the right person to bring along is harder than finding a mint comic book in a leaky garage.

In my mind, Chabon’s talk – and the one next month by humorist David Sedaris that’s part of the same series – could be the greatest thing since the Man of Steel landed in Metropolis.

In his beautiful, descriptive prose, Chabon has created two cousins, Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, who join forces in New York in 1939 to rescue family members from Nazi occupation. Their ticket to riches and their family’s freedom? A commercial comic-book character, the Escapist, who is inspired by magician Harry Houdini.

To me,” explains Sammy, “Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing

That is it. I hope to be transported by Chabon’s words. To change.

But as I run through my mental Rolodex of everyone I can think to ask, I am slowing figuring out that each would probably attempt to escape my invitation.

Top of my list? My endearing friend who deposits kitchen ants safely outside and calls throughout the day just because. He is an intellectual who supports KCRW and applauds good storytelling. But his super-human frame doesn’t fit well into theater seats. When he is plunked in one, he thrashes like a bull caught in a turnstile. Innocent onlookers might get hurt.

I could ask my son. Forget that he has just painted his place DC Comics red, yellow and blue; we usually agree on things. But this is one college sophomore who shuns any optional activity with the word lecture” attached.

A girlfriend? Sure, that should work. But I know my single friends:

Is he cute?” they will ask.

Yes, classically chiseled. “Is he single?”

No, married with kids.

They will pass. Dinner, drinks and roping single men is their idea of a night out, not listening to a man with a ring on his left hand talk about the struggles of his profession.

I have married friends too, but these days, they are all terminally cocooned.

My guy friends? They are spontaneous, which means they always wait for a better offer. I expect to hear back from them about the time the ushers are closing the doors.

I’m really stretching here, but my financial planner would be impressed that Chabon sold his first book, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” – his master’s thesis, no less – for $155,000!

Then I remember: I hate my financial planner. With him along, all I’d be thinking about is my freefalling nest egg.

Why is this such a brain-bender? Chabon is a golden boy on the book circuit. I have heard him talk before and he is inspiring. He worked five years on his second novel, which was going nowhere. He set it aside and spent a few months clearing his head by writing about a college professor stuck with a 2,611-page second novel that was going nowhere. Chabon’s exercise became the comic novel “Wonder Boys.”

Another writer would love this. Another problem. A friend who earned his master’s in fine arts degree at the same school as Chabon – UC Irvine – and who can always pinpoint the exact literary work I am feebly trying to drop into conversation, would remind me that two years ago I borrowed his copy of “Wonder Boys” and never returned it.

I have other intellectual friends, but they are too egghead-y. I go to an author’s lecture to hear the music of good writing read by its creator; they turn it into a graduate seminar on imagery and tropes. They deconstruct every line. When I try to read between them – the lines, that is – all I see is space.

What I need is someone who is well read but likes a good time, passionate yet easygoing, interested but not obsessive.

Someone, well, like me.

I took the problem to my mild-mannered editor, who said, “This sounds like a story. Write it by Friday. And if you do find yourself stuck with the Chabon ticket, just holler. I haven’t read his book, but I’m a huge Superman fan.”

My hero.

 

*

Michael Chabon

What: Lecture by author Michael Chabon (“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”)

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine

When: Monday, 8 p.m.

Cost: $29 to $35

Info: (949) 854-4646; www.thebarclay.org

Also: Humorist David Sedaris speaks on April 29 as part of the same series. Same show time and ticket price.