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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988)
by Michael Chabon
20th Century Literature (509)
Books Read in 2018 (904)
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Best Campus Novels (55)
Academia in Fiction (72)
First Novels (187)
A Novel Cure (536)
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First edition fine
this book reminded me of young summer in an unnamed east coast industrial town, smoking too many cigarettes, falling in embarrassing love and lust with inappropriate people, unsure where the train of my life is barreling.
but there was that whole "father is a gangster" thing, that kind of pulled me out of the fiction/reverie, in the way that i didn't really believe in it, but began, slowly, to accept it for the plot-driving device it is.
this book broke my heart, like long-ago people did. it made me yearn for it when it was no longer around. it made me ache, but in kind of a good way.
Enjoyed this a lot...I dove in as i prefer, with basically zero knowledge of the book, topic, author, etc......i just started reading. Seems as if this was a rather insightful story of that first summer post college graduation.....that last gasp before officially starting adulthood. Arthur, with the grudging blessing (and money!) from his father, spends a final summer in Pittsburgh before figuring out what he wants to do. Lots of drinking, smoking cigarettes, new friends, lovers, experiences, family revelations, road trips, etc. Relationships thrive, they wallow, they fail......unexpected unions, attractions to uncomfortable situations, confronting his father and the reason behind his support......all told in a very relatable manner with honesty and humility. Some characters i really disliked...but that was likely the point.....and Arthur's willingness to step so far out of his box was unnerving now and then......but it still seemed believable to a point. Not bad for a first novel by Chabon. (My particular volume had Chabon's own thoughts on writing this, his first novel....and I really enjoyed that, as well!) Looking forward to his remaining works...most of which are already on my shelves.
I'll be generous.
This book did not capture me. The writing felt amateur in ways that stunned me. I remember feeling lost in Kavalier and Clay, floating on wave after wave of blindingly gorgeous sentences, paragraphs, so complex and bold that you couldn't help but feel an awesome seasickness. Here, though, the writing is just plain old insecure. Chabon plays it like a coward, and Art sounds like a boring crybaby who we end up not liking that much because, well, he can't write fo shit.
Not that the characters were really that good, either. Art basically said that Phlox was fake, with her lack of humor and her pretend mannerisms and her constant attempts to change the way she presented herself to the world. What he neglected to tell us was that everyone else in the book was fake in their own special ways, too. And if not fake, then at least too much stock character and not enough larger-than-life-ness. I despised Cleveland and thought he was unlikable the way Hitler is unlikable. Art's father felt more like a set piece/deus ex machina than a person. And Arthur was just not really someone we got to deeply know, I feel, unless you count his homosexuality as profound facet #1 of his personality.
That's not to say that the writing was abysmal. It wasn't. It was bad for Michael Chabon, good when compared to other human beings. I was interested in Art's life, which is good. The last couple of pages were cool. Parallel to Gatsby tickled my heart a bit. I'm torn between 2 and 3, because I actually read this book with interest, even though I don't think it's great. "It was okay," I'd say, which is 2-star... and this is Michael Chabon, so comeonnnnnn. Yknow he could've done something better than this.
Less absorbing than the other Chabon books I've read, but still an enjoyable read. Gatsby-ish.
Chabon’s talent bursts from the pages. For instance, he is very good at describing inebriation: “I had drunk very much very quickly,” Art, the narrator tells us, “and wasn’t following the action of the film too well. Everything seemed impossibly fast and noisy.” There are intriguing jokes: “I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalisations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl that majors in French.” And there are some excellent character portraits, such as that of Jane, who is introduced to readers thwacking golf balls across the neighbourhood at a house party, smelling “interestingly of light exertion, beer, perfume and cut grass”.
"Cleveland and I drank until the bar closed. It was a hot night, and the ceiling fans ruffled our hair and tore the cigarette smoke into little scraps. Each bottle of Rolling Rock came to us pearled with condensation," remembers Art, about to recall the occasion when Cleveland started reciting Frank O'Hara. "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" has hundreds of such moments, effortless, golden, reminding us that Chabon always had the capacity to amaze; he was, and is, the wonder boy.
there is much to admire here, and what the novel lacks in insight it compensates for in language, wit and ambition, in the sheer exuberance of its voice: the voice of a young writer with tremendous skill as he discovers, joyously, just what his words can do.
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Harper Perennial Olive Editions (2008 Olive)
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Wikipedia in English (2)
Michael Chabon masterfully renders the funny, tender, and captivating first-person narrative of Art Bechstein, whose confusion and heartache echo the tones of literary forebears like The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield and The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh incontrovertibly established Chabon as a powerful force in contemporary fiction, even before his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay set the literary world spinning. An unforgettable story of coming of age in America, it is also an essential milestone in the movement of American fiction, from a novelist who has become one of the most important and enduring voices of this generation.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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