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Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
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Wonder Boys (original 1995; edition 1995)

by Michael Chabon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,323691,636 (3.95)104
Member:twopairsofglasses
Title:Wonder Boys
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Wheeler Pub Inc (1995), Hardcover, 415 pages
Collections:contemporary/ literary
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon (1995)

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English (65)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (69)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
Saw the movie, read the book, needed to read a review to remember some of the plot, didn't jog a memory of entertainment or wonder at either movie or book. I guess it was ok. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Very middle of the road. Thus a solid three stars. The book was full of cliches about writers - substance abuse, sexual antics with co-workers and co-eds resulting in multiple marriages thus depicting the writer as a "hopeless romantic", a Hunter Thompsonesque weekend with a gay man, a suicidal genius and a tuba (insert any three Fellini type items here).

At the heart of the book, a story about writers block and a seven year endeavor about a book going nowhere. Best friend as indulgent editor means the money kept pouring in without any product flowing out. And on, and on and on. The Talking Heads wrote a song about this book before it was written. It was called "The Road to Nowhere."

Harsh words? Maybe so. But lately, I have been wondering what the Pulitzer committee is thinking because I have read a few books from prize winning authors and have been gravely disappointed. There were however a few things about the book I enjoyed and those salvaged the book from one star all the way back to three.

There is some beautifully written prose. Some sentences, some paragraphs. There were times I read and re-read those parts and just enjoyed basking in how good they were. Chabon uses some beautiful words that aren't used often, if at all, in literature. Although that was done clunkily and unevenly, it was great fun as a vocabulary building exercise.

I also felt that at some point, this became a story. When that shift occurred, I was caught up in wanting to finish it even though I didn't particularly like it. I wanted to finish it because I actually wanted to find out what was going to come of the characters. There really wasn't one I cared about deeply or empathized with, it was more the idle curiosity of an onlooker than the active investigation of a participant.

I have another book of his sitting in the pile and I intend to read that one too. But I will give myself time between the books to give the next one a fair chance. I will cleanse my palate by reading a bunch of stuff completely unconnected and then return to Mr. Chabon, refreshed and hopefully untainted. I think this may be a book you either love or hate. I personally felt....meh. ( )
  ozzieslim | Mar 13, 2015 |
17 of 75 for 2015. It took me a while to get through Chabon's book. He comes highly recommended, so I was looking forward to this, but I found myself slogging through lots of marijuana enduced paranoia, sleepless nights, and all the things I don't like about academia. Grady Tripp is a trainwreck waiting to happen, who somehow manages to slide through the worst things life can throw at him--most of which are of his own creation. Not a book I'd care to pick up for a second read, although it is well enough written that I kept after it till I finished the whole thing, which puts it above Kathryn Ann Porter's Ship of Fools which I just couldn't bring myself to read. Curiously, the opinion of two different readers of Tripp's magnum opus, which gives its name to Chabon's novel, is I read enough of it. Well I read the whole thing. And now it's over. ( )
  mtbearded1 | Feb 21, 2015 |
So you know that bit of Chekhovian wisdom about the gun? It occurred to me over and over again throughout the reading of this book. Every element Chabon inserted into this story goes off sooner or later in one way or another, including the boa constrictor. I can’t say that the progression of the plot is predictable, but I want to say something almost like that and in the most positive way; a page and a half before every new tragedy in the inexorably unraveling life of Grady Tripp you can begin to see something coming, you can watch how Chabon’s facsimile of fate and chance conspire to bring about one travesty after another. It’s a virtuoso performance of plot-craft. But, as I’ve discovered over and over in Chabon’s writing, the real gem isn’t the plot (though it’s impeccable), it isn’t the prose (though it’s beautiful), it isn’t concept (though it’s interesting), it’s his characters. Now, I’m not normally a reader who loves literature for the characters most of all, and I tend to read with disbelief only partially suspended, but Chabon’s characters become real to me. I audibly gasp, I laugh out loud, my jaw literally drops; I read portions of this book pacing in my kitchen with my wife occasionally asking if everything was okay, and me wanting to answer “how could it be, with all that stuff in Grady’s trunk?!” It doesn’t even matter that Grady kind of sucks, that he’s a terrible person; I still feel for the guy, still root for him.
This book is highly recommended to that kind of reader whose reading is a symptom of a half-smothered, stillborn, frustrated ambition to write. I know you’re out there. ( )
  CGlanovsky | Jan 28, 2015 |
I swore, after reading Herzog, that I would never read another novel about middle-aged academics in crisis. However, by the time that I figured out that the middle-aged academic narrator of Wonder Boys was in crisis, I couldn't put the book down because I had to find out what happened to the tuba.

I'm really glad I couldn't put this down because this turned out to be a great Passover novel. Will the first-borns be saved? Will Tripp (the middle-aged academic) be able to stop wondering around the wastelands of Pittsburgh? Will he be able to give up the flesh-pots of Egypt for the hope of life in the promised land? Those are the questions that keep the novel moving forward. In addition, there is a scene with a Seder that was one of the funniest things I've read in a long time (and I've been to some amusing Seders in my time,) ( )
  aulsmith | Dec 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank-- but that's not the same thing. -- Joseph Conrad
Dedication
To Ayelet
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The first real writer I ever knew was a man who did all of his work under the name of August Van Zorn.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Pittsburgh professor and author Grady Tripp is working on an unwieldy 2,611 page manuscript that is meant to be the follow-up to his successful, award-winning novel The Land Downstairs, that was published seven years earlier. On the eve of a college-sponsored writers and publishers weekend called WordFest, two monumental things happen to Tripp: his wife walks out on him, and he learns that his mistress, who is also the chancellor of the college, Sara Gaskell, is pregnant with his child. To top it all off, Tripp finds himself involved in a bizarre crime involving one of his students, an alienated young writer named James Leer.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312140940, Paperback)

Grady Tripp is a pot-smoking middle aged novelist who has stalled on a 2611 page opus titled Wonder Boys. His student James Leer is a troubled young writer obsessed by Hollywood suicides and at work on his own first novel. Grady's bizarre editor Terry Crabtree and another student, Hannah Green, come together in his wildly comic, moving, and finally profound search for an ending to his book and a purpose to his life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A funny novel on two college friends who relive their youth by getting up to all sorts of tricks during a literary conference. One is a professor who is writing a novel, the other is his editor. Both left college with high hopes of making a name, hopes which have not materialized. By the author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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