casMichael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is an incredible book – not because of its wonderful story, or its beautiful, Pulitzer Prize winning prose, but because people who have never read a book by anyone not named Margaret Weis or that wasn’t part of a “Chronicles” or “Trilogy” or “Saga” picked it up and read it. This is astonishing – imagine a book powerful enough to draw those greasy, thick-glassed nerds away from the sci-fi/fantasy section and convincing them to read an honest to god modern lit book. Chabon, you the man.*

The book has been languishing in development hell in Hollywood for a number of years, but Chabon seems to think there’s some progress, and that a certain hot young starlet will be appearing in the film. From his website:

The fate of this project–whether it will move at last from the nebulousness of pre-pre-production into really-truly pre-production, with a budget and cast and everything, will be decided on or around 12 July 2006. Miss Natalie Portman is a strong likelihood for the part of Rosa; other casting is ongoing, as are work on the script (a lot of cutting) and tests conducted by a number of top-drawer animation studios (for the comic book elements). Quick answers (as of this date): Golem: yes. Antarctica: yes. Gay love story: yes. Ruins of World’s Fair: no. Long Island: no. Orson Welles: no. Salvador Dali: yes. Loving reference to Betty and Veronica: no. Stan Lee: no.

Sounds hopeful. I think the Antarctica stuff could work better in a movie than it did in the book; when I read Kavalier & Clay that section seemed to stop everything dead after so much steam had been built. And July 12, huh? Could that mean an official announcement will wait until Comic Con?

* I have to admit that I always thought it would be Jonathan Lethem who would cross over, especially since his earliest, K. Dick-ensian books are found in your local bookstore’s sci-fi section. I think that if Fortress of Solitude, his paean to comic books, had been stronger in the second half and had thus gotten more notice, he could have been to geeks today what Chabon is. By the way, if you’re one of the geeks whose rare foray into modern lit has been Kavalier & Clay, try some Lethem, and if you’re feeling like you really want to exercise those reading muscles atrophied by the likes of George RR Martin, check out Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace. Sometimes labor-intensive reading, but very much dancing on the edge of great genre conceits, especially White Noise (no relation to the movie) and Infinite Jest, maybe my favorite modern novel.