Michael Chabon is one of my favorite contemporary authors. His writing style is at once literary and easy, with complicated themes and metaphors running through what would often be considered "pulp" topics, such as the comic book industry. You can read a more full account of his life and writings at the link above, but let me just comment on a couple of aspects of his career I find interesting.
First, he achieved success early (both critical and popular), at the age of 25. Not an unremarkable feat, especially considering he was not seeking it. Apparently a professor of his submitted Chabon's master's thesis to a publisher, and secured him a $150,000 advance for what was his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Most first time novelists receive an advance less than 10% of that figure.
Chabon then ran into what many first-time novelists run into - the inability to follow up their first novel with something equally as compelling. He spent years working on a project he ultimately scrapped, but in the process caught fire on another idea, which became Wonder Boys (the novel upon which the movie is based). Not a bad follow up at all! This already sets him apart from many "one hit" authors, who use up all of their creative ideas in their first book, and have little else to say.
Chabon then writes his opus, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. He wins the Pulitzer, accolades, etc., for this book set in 1940s New York. It is the story of two Jewish cousins who achieve greatness in the comic book industry, set against the backdrop of WW II. Personally, I absolutely loved this book. Again, it is densely written, with sometimes complicated use of language, but never (to my mind) written with the goal of being artsy or pretentious. The descriptions of the time, as well as of a fledging industry (comics) are well written and fascinating. The characters are remarkably fleshed out, as are the relationships between the various people. A definite "thumbs up" recommendation from me!
I am currently working my way through The Final Solution, which is a detective story novella. I am about half way through, and I am enjoying it. More interesting, though, is that Chabon has steadfastly insisted on writing in various genres, including fantasy (like Summerland, a fantastic young adult modern fantasy that includes an alternative universe), genres that pseudo-intellectual elites will often frown upon. Chabon's efforts have been attempts to break down the barriers between the so-called middle and high brow categories and genre fiction, and he has (in my humble opinion) been remarkably successful. I agree with his philosophy that there is simply good writing and bad writing, regardless of genre, and I applaud his diversity of subject matter, whether he writes more "high" fiction (such as Kavalier and Clay), or "low brow" (such as Gentlemen of the Road, which I will be tackling next). I've often similarly with snobs regarding Stephen King - I think he is a fantastic writer, period. The snobs will retort with, "He writes good horror, but..." Why qualify it? King is among the best developers of character and setting I've ever read, regardless of genre. That he writes horror is irrelevant.
Anyway, if you haven't read anything by Michael Chabon, I suggest you give him a read. His writing style may take a bit of getting used to, as he is the anti-Hemingway in terms of simplicity, but once you get used to tackling his prose more deliberately, you'll be in for a treat. I've read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Kavalier and Clay, and Summerland, as well as many of his short stories. I'm also working my way through The Final Solution, and will then tackle Gentlemen of the Road (with a review, of course). Here is a passage from The Final Solution I enjoyed, describing the old, grizzled detective working on his last case:
"He handled the grisly bit of evidence without hesitation or qualm. He had seen human beings in every state, phase, and attitude of death: a Cheapside drab tumbled, throat cut, headfirst down a stairway of the Thames Embankment, blood pooling in her mouth and eye sockets; a stolen child, green as a kelpie, stuffed into a storm drain; the papery pale husk of a pensioner, killed with arsenic over the course of a dozen years; a skeleton looted by kites and dogs and countless insects, bleached and creaking in a wood, tattered garments fluttering like flags; a pocketful of teeth and bone chips in a shovelful of pale incriminating ash. There was nothing remarkable, nothing at all, about the crooked X that death had scrawled in the dust of Hallows Lane."