Emily Dickinson had the attic. Rivers Cuomo had the garage. And in an essay in this month’s Details, Michael Chabon stakes his claim on … the basement. Playing in the basement as a child, he writes, “helped form the basis of my life as a writer, a denizen of the basement of my soul.”
He continues: “I suppose it is no accident that basements, hidden lairs, and underground settings have features so routinely in my fiction … In almost everything I’ve written you can find buried treasures, Batcaves and hidey-holes, half-forgotten underground worlds that perhaps encode the rapture and the bitterness of my own isolation.” He goes on to bemoan and then celebrate his current California residence’s basementlessness. Um, at length.
Sometimes I feel like writing essays like this for magazines like Details — another recent example is Jonathan Safran Foer’s discourse on his vegetarianism in Real Simple — is, for marquee-name authors, sort of like when movie stars shoot ads for whiskey or sunglasses or gum in Japan. You know? It’s like part of them thinks no one will ever find out. Seriously: “denizen of the basement of my soul?”