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Wonder Boys: A Novel [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 29 2008
A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart. All those who love Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay will find the same elegant imagination, bold humor, and undeniable warmth at work in Wonder Boys.

“[A] wise, wildly funny story . . . Chabon is a flat-out wonderful writer– evocative and inventive, pointed and poignant.”
–Chicago Tribune

“Whether making us laugh or making us feel the breathtaking impermanence of things, Michael Chabon keeps us wide awake and reading.”
–All Things Considered

“Beguiling and wickedly smart . . . There is first-rate satirical farce in Chabon’s novel but essentially it is something rarer: satirical comedy.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

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From Publishers Weekly

Mixing comic?even slapstick?events with the serious theme of bright promise gone awry, Chabon has produced an impeccably constructed novel that sparkles with inventiveness and wit neatly permeated with rue. The once-promising eponymous "wonder boys" are Grady Tripp and Terry Crabtree, friends since college, where they both determined to make their mark in literature. Now they are self-destructive adults whose rare meetings occasion an eruption of zany events. Narrator Grady, a professor/novelist whose unfinished work-in-progress, Wonder Boys, stands at 2000-plus endlessly revised pages, has destroyed three marriages through compulsive philandering and a marijuana habit. Terry is a devil-may-care, sexually predatory editor who has patiently endured Grady's writing block but who tells Grady, when he arrives at the annual literary conference at Grady's small Pittsburgh college, that he expects to be fired momentarily from his job. Grady and Terry, later joined by the campus's newest potential "wonder boy," a talented but mendacious student named James Leer, set in motion a series of darkly funny misadventures. Farcical scenes arise credibly out of multiplying contretemps, culminating in a stoned Grady's wild ride in a stolen car in whose trunk rest a tuba and the corpses of a blind dog and a boa constrictor. All of this affords Chabon a solid platform for some freewheeling satire about the yearnings, delusions and foibles of writers and other folk. Throughout, his elegant prose, breathtaking imagery and wickedly on-target dialogue precisely illuminate his characters' gentle absurdities. The pace of this vastly entertaining novel never abates for a second, as we watch Grady slide inexorably into emotional and professional chaos. Above all, though, this is a feast for lovers of writing and books, with the author's fierce understanding of what Grady calls "the midnight disease," the irresistible, destructive urge of a writer to experience his characters' fates. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Chabon himself is something of a wonder boy; his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, presided on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 12 weeks. Here, his eponymous heroes are Grady, an aging author attempting to write his chef-d'oeuvre, and his randy editor, Tripp.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing! March 18 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All components one hopes to discover in between the covers. Integrity in the writing itself, loved the descriptive prose, the characters esp Grady Tripp & James Veer. Humorous, witty, absurd yet not unimaginable scenarios. Yes, I'd seen "the movie", Chabon gave Michael Douglas the perfect character & dialogue for his academy award winning performance. And Douglas didn't let Chabon down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Infuriatingly Wonderful Dec 8 2004
Format:Paperback
It's hard to summarize why this book is as good as it is. Mostly, I think, it stems from the narrator's tone which mixes a gloom that things will never be what they were along with a playfulness in accepting that the past is gone.
The crux of this novel is the sliding manner of the relationships between the narrator - a faded author named Grady Little, his publisher Terry Crabtree, and their student/protegée James Leer - whose suicidal exterior and studied eccentricity masks an acute talent for writing fiction. The power struggles the three engage in during a drunken writer's convention at the University of Pittsburgh result in a complete reversal of fortune for two of the three main characters (who are the titular Wonder Boys), and a general change of lifestyle for the third.
Also in the mix of this frothy book are an obsession with old Hollywood starlets, a dead dog, a divorce, a pregnancy, and a transvestite clutching a tuba case.
When I finished reading Wonder Boys, I was torn with admiration for Chabon's accomplishment and bitter jealousy that someone can write such a book and I can't. I won't pretend that everybody will like this novel - I can picture many of my friends disliking it. But I stand by its merits: brilliantly funny and sad, and capturing its milieu of faded academic glory superbly.
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Format:Paperback
Grady Tripp--professor, pothead, philanderer--is not all that likable; the type of egotistical pretender who rarely examines his own feelings, "an activity never far removed from looking for a dead rat in a spidery crawl space under the house." But, then again, none of the cast of characters who comprise his limited universe and massage his enormous ego are all that admirable: his underperforming and pliable editor, his suicidal and mendacious star student, his two-faced and newly pregnant mistress, his credulous and demoralized Jewish Korean American wife, his bubbly and flirtatious boarder.
What makes Chabon's novel so wonderful is not that you'll meet characters you'll admire or like or identify with--you won't, one hopes--but that, even though it's a satire of academic life, this horde of misfits is so thoroughly believable. And it's one of the funniest books I've read: a protracted comedy of errors and pure boneheadedness.
Several years late with his fourth novel, Tripp plays host to his editor, who has arrived for a college symposium on writing and who hopes that Tripp, against all odds, has completed his long-promised magnum opus. With the help of their wayward companions, the undynamic duo collect in Tripp's 1966 emerald green Ford Galaxie 500 convertible: a dead blind dog, a tuba, a rather hefty bag of marijuana, a boa constrictor, a jacket once worn by Marilyn Monroe, 2,611 manuscript pages of an unfinished (and unfinishable) novel, an assortment of pharmaceuticals--all of which are pursued through Pittsburgh by a street tough packing a German nine millimeter. It's a Peter Bogdanovich farce for the literary set.
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Format:Paperback
In Michael Chabon's best work yet, he demonstrates his remarkable ability to write. This novel, though racy at times is not only entertaining, but relevant and semi-educational. From pot-smoking authors, to pill-popping publishers, to dedicated students, and slightly insane students, with a nice jewish family at the end, this book truly does touch on everything. I would definately reccomend it, even thought it does have a few flaws. Towards the end, a variety of bizaare twists left me confused, and I didnt quite understand the ending. I also feel that the blatant drug use, was a little excessive, seeing as almost every character was intoxicated at some point. This is definately a five-star book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars D.A.R.E. Feb. 22 2004
Format:Paperback
So, first things first: Chabon is, right now, simply the world's best living writer of English prose.
The only really fair question to ask given this fact is how _Wonder Boys_ stacks up against his other work. Answer: it lacks the sheer jaw-dropping magnificence of _Kavalier and Klay_, but it's a step forward from both _The Mysteries of Pittsburgh_ and the short stories. There are at least three dozen chokingly funny one-liners, the plot is an utterly ingenious picaresque, and the hero, Grady Tripp, is totally believable. I've had friends who were similarly gifted but who used just enough pot or booze to cause their lives to spin that little extra bit beyond their control, and Chabon shows this happening with surgical and unsentimental precision, without ever sacrificing the novel's lightness of tone.
I saw the movie first, and think this was a mistake, although it does have many charms. There's a lovely pair of performances by Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. Also there's a wonderful scene near the end, involving a retired boxer and a jacket that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe, that's not in the book at all - surprising, given how sweet and apt it seemed to me to be in the film. But one only gets to witness the slow disintegration of Tripp's literary talent from the inside (so to speak) in the novel, and Tripp's drug use is also treated as being just a cuddly and insignificant eccentricity in the film, in that way that Hollywood people foolishly prefer to think of such things. The novel is much more of a cautionary tale, and a far superior work of art as the result.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful "Boys"
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon deftly avoided the sophomore slump with "Wonder Boys," a followup to the unique "Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Read more
Published on May 17 2004 by E. A Solinas
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, and so is the movie
Oh, what's not to love about this book about a middle-aged author and professor in a fading marriage, suffering a prolonged bout of writer's block, living in a large house with... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2004 by Peggy Vincent
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Tripp
I'm one of the club members who believe that novels are just about almost always much better than their film adaptations. However, I found the movie was stronger than the novel. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2003 by Kelly Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars A manic mid-life crisis
Grady Tripp, narrator of Chabon's funny and frantic second novel, is a fortyish writing professor mired in the swamp of his latest novel, a 2,600-page mess called Wonder Boys, and... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2003 by Lynn Harnett
4.0 out of 5 stars chabon is a wonder boy
I read _Wonder Boys_ immediately after finishing _Oryx and Crake_ by Margaret Atwood, and was shocked that I'd had an easier time keeping up with the latter. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2003 by Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel
3.0 out of 5 stars A rare case...
I believe this is one of the rare instances where the film was stronger than the novel. This book is thematically inconsistent and, in many of the scenes that did not appear in... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2003 by "summitaih"
5.0 out of 5 stars The mark of great skill!
I've barely finished this book and I already feel like a swan diving off the roof; Mr. Chabon is that good. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2003 by CoffeeGurl
4.0 out of 5 stars Writers in Pittsburgh on a bizarre weekend bender
Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys" is a darkly funny literary novel about a writer lost in a marijuana fog, tapping away at an endless fourth work that has taken over seven years of... Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2003 by Jack Fitzgerald
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