Brow Beat

Michael Chabon Talks Punk Influences and Plays Some Punk of His Own

The mysteries of Carsickness.

Stacy Weiss

Studio 360, which is now part of the Slate empire, often features people talking about a-ha moments related to art and culture. Sandra Bernhard* saw Carol Channing in Hello Dolly and decided to become a performer; a listener named Amy Douglas, who was struggling with depression and an eating disorder, discovered an album, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, that helped to literally save her life.      

Of course, influential artists themselves were, at one point, just pissants who hadn’t yet written or directed that thing you love. Like Pulitzer Prize–winner Michael Chabon. He began writing his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, when he was an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon in Iron City. It’s a gorgeous coming-of-age novel—and it turns out Chabon locates his own coming of age in Pittsburgh, too.

That’s what Chabon talks about on the latest episode of Studio 360, where he reads an essay he wrote about discovering the post-punk band Carsickness when he was a freshman at Carnegie Mellon in 1980.

“Even 35 (good lord!) years later,” Chabon says, “you can still hear it in the songs on this record: the sound of five young men united, for a time, by a sense of adventure. The sound that stirred me, that fall day in Pittsburgh, the city where my own life’s adventure truly began. It’s the sound of my youth—and yours, whenever you were born, wherever you came of age, however you came into possession of the restlessness that is our common inheritance.”

Remarkably, Chabon also gave us a sample of his own stint fronting a band called The Bats in the early 1980s, which you might not have high expectations about but is kind of great.

Listen to this episode of Studio 360 below, where host Kurt Andersen introduces at the segment at 21:57, and subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts.

*Correction, Oct. 11, 2017: This post originally referred to Sandra Bernhard as Sarah Bernhard.