2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
December 3, 2003
To be honest, I don't read short stories very often; I'm a novel person usually. But I couldn't think of anything else to read and I'm a fan of Chabon's writing so I thought I'd give this a shot.
The first half of "Model World" almost made me wish I hadn't. It wasn't that the writing was poor, but every story seemed almost the same until in my mind they all blurred together. Some young, troubled man gets with some not-very-nice girl and nothing good comes of it. The only one that stood out in my mind was "Smoke", largely because I'm a baseball fan and so I found it more interesting than the others. I found the title story to be very confusing; it seemed funny to me that the runt of the litter was selected as the title piece.
The second part of the book, "The Lost World" is better. This is a series of short stories about the disintegrating Shapiro family, told from the eldest son Nathan's perspective. Here the continuity helps avoid the redundancy of the first part. Only the last story (again the title story for the second part) goes back to the much-repeated tale of Nathan getting with a not-so-nice girl on the night before she leaves town forever.
If you want happy endings, look somewhere else, there are none to be found here. Some people find that distressing, but I didn't mind. What I wish is that the author or publisher would have included some notes before the stories to give a little background on them. I found the introductions to the short stories in John Irving's "Saving Piggy Sneed" to provide a lot of insight into the stories and the author; it's sort of like the director's commentary on certain DVDs.
Anyway, the writing as always is flawless; Chabon's writing always makes me so jealous, because I will never EVER be that good. It also exposes my lack of a decent vocabulary, which I find, er...bad. ;-)
I would say that if you're a fan of Chabon, then go ahead and read this collection of stories. If you aren't then--like all the stories in the book--there will be no happy ending for you.