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Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Wonder Boys (1995)

by Michael Chabon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,751772,043 (3.94)140
  1. 30
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (browner56)
    browner56: Both books are often hilarious and great examples of the Campus Novel.
  2. 20
    Changing Places by David Lodge (yokai)
  3. 10
    The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both books are set in academia, are nicely plotted, and approach themes of male friendship, literature, and sexuality with humor.
  4. 10
    White Noise by Don DeLillo (igorken)
  5. 00
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (PilgrimJess)
    PilgrimJess: Both have inept and comical central heroes.
  6. 00
    Monsieur Jean: From Bachelor to Father by Philippe Dupuy (SnootyBaronet)
  7. 00
    Blue Angel by Francine Prose (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both campus novels about writer-professors. Both darkly funny.
  8. 02
    Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (yokai)

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» See also 140 mentions

English (72)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
"All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure."

The book's hero, Grady Tripp, is a forty-ish novelist and married writing teacher at a Pittsburgh college. Grady had some moderate success as a writer in the past but has spent the last seven years struggling to finish a 2000+ page magnum-opus called "Wonder Boys" because he basically has no idea how to end it. Grady lacks discipline, is always looking for an easy fix and as such his life is spiralling out of control caught up in a triumvirate of drugs, booze and love affairs. He is regularly either drunk or stoned, he is cheating on his third wife, Emily, with the college chancellor, Sara Gaskell, whose husband, Walter, is the chairman of the English department.

Most of the story takes place over the course of one long chaotic weekend when Grady's long-time editor, Terry Crabtree, arrives in town to attend a literary festival called Wordfest. Grady takes Crabtree carousing in the hope of conning him into believing that his novel, for which he has been paid a hefty advance. is almost finished. Over the course of the weekend Grady finds out that Sara is pregnant, and after a series of bizarre scrapes involving amongst other things, a transvestite, an Alaskan malamute, a boa constrictor and a tuba virtually loses everything including his life.

On the face of it Grady Tripp doesn't seem like a particularly appealing hero but I ended up almost feeling sorry for him. He can't bear growing older, in losing the sense that he is the next 'wunderkind' to hit the literary world, he hates being seen as a 'senior' role model, he wants to cling on to his youthful extravagances for as long as he can. In that I can see myself and many other middle-aged men. Grady's lovers even appear to encourage his wild extravagances rather than try to curtail them. Perhaps because it was that wild abandon that attracted him to them or perhaps he has become a sort of surrogate for their own middle-ages.

"It's always been hard for me to tell the difference between denial and what used to be known as hope."

"Wonder Boys" is filled with memorable lines and images. Grady is an interesting literary character, thoughtless rather than outwardly cruel, equally I can recognise many of his hopes and fears, his flaws and foibles. Now whilst I didn't actually laugh out loud it did at least make me smile on more than one occasion. However, that all said and done I found this book little more than a series of 'shaggy dog stories' and therefore an OK piece of escapism rather than a great one. Chabon is certainly an author whose works that I will keep an eye out for in the future.

"I'm a man who falls in love so easily . . . that from the very first instant of entering into a marriage I become, almost by definition, an adulterer. I've run through three marriages now, and each time the dissolution was my own fault, clearly and incontrovertibly." ( )
  PilgrimJess | Mar 1, 2019 |
I first read Chabon when his The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was nominated for a sf award, but I think I might have seen the film adaptation of Wonder Boys before that. What am I saying? I have spreadsheets containing this information. I can check… So: I watched Wonder Boys on 4 June 2001 and read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union on 15 March 2008. I did indeed watch the film before reading any of Chabon’s novels. Anyway, having now read Wonder Boys, I want to rewatch the film. Argh. The one thing that struck while reading the book was that most of the film’s cast had been badly-chosen. The narrator is a failed writer of GRRM-proportions who teaches creative writing at a Pittsburgh university. He was played by Michael Douglas. His gay agent was played by Robert Downey Jr. And troubled student James Leer was played by Tobey Maguire. None of them really fit the characters has portrayed in the novel. Which is basically about a weekend at the university during a writing festival, in which the narrator’s wife leaves him, his lover, the chancellor, tells him she’s pregnant, Leer steals the chancellor’s husband’s prize possession, a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe and shoots their dog, and… well, shit happens, in that sort of slowly inevitable One Foot in the Grave way that ends up in farce. And overshadowing it all is the narrator’s current WIP, which shares the novel’s title, and which he has been working on for seven years, has grown to gargantuan proportions and he will likely never ever finish. Literary professors/authors whose lives are slowly, and comically, unravelling is pretty much a genre on its own, and is seen by many as emblematic of literary fiction as a whole. I disagree, of course. The only people who think lit fic is all middle-class professors lusting after nubile students, disappearing into a bottle, failing to finish their magnum opus, etc, are the people who generally only read genre and almost certainly have not read widely in literary fiction/literature. I’m still not sure what to make of Chabon’s work – this novel is a bit of a bloated cliché and he has a tendency to drop the odd bit of over-writing into his prose, but there’s a curious personality that shines through, one that’s keen to experiment with the stories he tells, and there’s something very likeble about that. ( )
  iansales | Oct 3, 2018 |
I always enjoy Chabon's writing style, even if his stories can be bizarre. ( )
  TravbudJ | Sep 30, 2018 |
It's a wonder that Grady Tripp even managed to write fiction at all being that he was so preoccupied with smoking weed and seducing his colleague's wife. I really enjoyed this novel. The relationships between Professor / Writer Grady Tripp and his self-loathing student James Leer and his horny editor Terry Crabtree were wonderfully developed and their adventurous weekend was told with humor and verve. Male friendships are simple yet complex yet simple things and Chabon has a gift of peeling back the layers that bond them. Chabon can really turn a phrase although occasionally he can be long-winded. Every once and a while, I found myself thinking, "Come on, get on with it, man." Then Chabon would knock my socks off with the next paragraph. All in all, a fun read. ( )
  scott_semegran | Jan 29, 2018 |
Well, the third reading of this book left me less impressed than the first two. I don't know if it's changing times, or age, or what, but this time Grady Tripp REALLY annoyed me. It especially annoyed me that he stole somebody's tuba, hauled it around in the rain, and then abandoned it. I just kept thinking of some poor musician, arriving in Pittsburgh for a gig only to find that there's no trace of his tuba because some pothead has stolen it and driven it around for several days before leaving it on the street to get ruined. I'm pretty sure I found that absurdly hilarious the first time I read it, so I might have matured a little since then.

Anyway, it also bothered me this time that in all the driving around and the huge cast of characters, nothing really happens. Or actually, a lot of things happen, but they have no relationship to anything else that happens. I never got any real sense of any of the other characters--why is James so weird? What happened to Hannah? What would ever interest Sara or Emily about a person like Grady? And why does Grady seem so much older than 41? But at least it doesn't end the way the movie does; the ending of the movie drove me UP THE WALL. All I can imagine is that some test audience wanted a happier ending than the book seems to have.

I guess the previous two times I read this book and loved it I was in a different state of mind, with different opinions of what makes a good book. I still liked it well enough to read it three times, though. That must mean something, right? ( )
  VintageReader | Jul 9, 2017 |
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Michael Chabonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Verhagen, PietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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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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)

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