Book Review: ‘Gentlemen of the Road’ follows adventures, philosophical discussions

Set in the Middle East during the 10th century, Michael Chabon’s “Gentlemen of the Road” follows the adventures and philosophical discussions of two highwaymen: Zeligman, a tall scarecrow like figure from what is now France, and Amram, a giant African with a Viking battle-axe.

In addition to their strikingly different physical appearance, they are frequently at odds when it comes to how they see the world.

For Amram, a cup is usually half full, for Zeligman, what’s in the cup must be undrinkable.

During their adventures, they fleece the unwary, aid the unfortunate and otherwise try to give meaning to their own lives.

When I first read “Gentlemen of the Road,” I lost patience with it and rushed through the last couple of chapters.

As you can imagine, the ending was confusing and very unsatisfactory.

Naturally, I concluded that Chabon had written a clunker.

The second time I read it, I took the time to savor Chabon’s rich descriptions and perceptive writing that he flavors with a subtle, but very focused, wit.

For example, Chabon describes one character as “… a would-be sharp operator who lacked for the satisfaction of his ambition only the quality of sharpness and who, as far as his uncle could tell, expended all of his energies on preserving his opinions from contamination by experience.”

By taking the literary scenic route, I had an opportunity to relish the sparkling descriptions and layers of intrigue that came with the turn of each page.

“Gentlemen of the Road” is a jewel to enjoy when you don’t have a million things vying for your attention.

When that time comes, I hope you find it was worth the wait.