By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayThis P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
This book first drew me BECAUSE of the lyrical nature of the writing and the theme of coming-of-age. Yes, Chabon is a walking thesaurus, as others have said of his books, but gee -- LOOK IT UP! Want your books to be pap? Read Dick and Jane, then. Want your language to be simple? Read Hemingway. This is neither.
But, if you want a thoughtful, lyrical story that captures a moment in a young man's life, read this. Then read Chabon's other books. You won't be disappointed.
The themes central to this story- love, ambition, uncertainty of oneself as an individual, the futility of running away from one's personal demons to name a few- are more fully developed in Chabon's later works, but they are no less a presence in Mysteries in Pittsburgh. Others have been a bit dismissive of the "first novel" label on this book, but still when looking at a book and at an author it is important to recognize where he or she started creatively and what direction they have moved in. As such, while Mysteries of Pittsburgh is not Chabon's greatest work by any means, it is a good start to the rest of his books and even on its own merits, is certainly worth the time taken to read it.
The writing is delicate, well-considered, and just a bit precious. The epic, pitch-perfect sentences that color "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" are nowhere to be found in "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh." The story is standard novice-novelist fare: A sweetly nostalgiac coming of age story, with an obligatory crisis of sexuality. The book's biggest strength is in its characters. They're strong and memorable, and the conversations between them hint at the flair for whip-smart dialogue that is so prevalent and effortless in Chabon's later works it's easy to take for granted. A few of the characters pop up, albeit in different skins, with different context, in "The Amazing Adventures of Kavlier & Clay" and "Wonder Boys."
"The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is a very enjoyable book. The characters ring true, and the story, though it tends toward stasis, is one of the best of its kind. For fans of Chabon, it highlights just how much he's grown as a writer and storyteller. It's profound in a subtle, understated way, and while it is hardly as masterful as the novels that would follow it, it's a solid, pretty, consistent effort from one of modern fiction's greatest writers.