The Mysteries of Pittsburgh Hardcover – Apr 1988
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From Publishers Weekly
First-novelist Chabon, with "distinctive vision" and "an elegiac, graceful style," spins a story about alienated youth that, while serving up some familiar details of sex, alcohol and drugs, "fully engages the reader in the lives of an appealing cast of characters," said PW .
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'A strikingly accomplished debut' -- Sunday Times 'His style has an enviable suppleness and fluency which offers the perfect vehicle for the moral feints and shifts of the cool crowd he portrays' -- TLS 'Hard as it is to write about youth when you're young, Chabon has done it brilliantly' -- Cosmopolitan 'Mingles wit, sex and fine writing' -- Sunday Telegraph 'His control over his story, the wonderful use he makes of each description, of Pittsburgh itself, are often astonishing...a young writer with a tremendous skill' -- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I wasn't enthralled. There was a poetic grace at play...but I never felt as charmed as I'd expected I would.
Maybe the problem I had was that the characters are of an 'unformed age'. They don't have all the answers. (They hardly seem interested in the questions.) There's behaviour here that is the domain of the near-adult; a sort of indulgent recklessness that's less energetic than the type teenagers exhibit...maybe dulled by the anticipated onset of adulthood and the flatness it invariably brings. At times Chabon veers towards being precious...but it's only ever a threat. At least that's how I remember it. Of course, what all this means is that he represented the characters' ages well.
There's a definite sparseness in the prose, a softness of declaration that fits with the characters.
And I appreciated how much he left out, especially given that this was a summer's tale.
'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' is its own tale, regardless of how much it owes to any of the tales that suggested its writing.
But despite all the quiet mastery of its execution, I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It might be the kind of novel best discovered by the reader either by chance or by legacy, rather than having it places in their hand.
Such is Chabon.
Personal rating: 7.5/10
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.
Is this a coming of age book? Indeed the reviews on the cover lift this work up with Fitzgerald, Caulfield, Twain, Dickens and, be still my heart, Kerouac. What? Sorry, this does not belong to that club.Were these obsequious comparisons lifted off the cover of The Wonder Boys or Kavalier & Clay?
This tale is a sometimes funny, sad, silly and ugly one, but an always entertaining account of that summer.
Upon reflection did he learn anything? Grow at all? Did he find where friendship ends and love begins, or vice-versa? Or what the difference between lusting and making love is? I don't think so. He explored pleasures and found his gangster father, an outlaw biker (the father has a strong opinion on this friendship), a liberated librarian (Phlox) and a male friend (Art Lecomte) that challenges his sexual persona while aching to prove that "he really knew how to have a good time."
Most recent customer reviews
It's really wonderful to see the beginnings of Michael Chabon's signature style emerge in this tender, often funny coming of age story. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2011 by lotara
The story is very interesting, I just love it. Strongly recommend you to read it.Published on Oct. 2 2010 by Catherinechueng
I read this book when it first came out, years ago, and felt compelled to response to some of the comments here. This is my first Amazon review. Read morePublished on May 26 2004
This was my second read from Chabon and while "Wonder Boys" made me a fan, I was a little disappointed with this one. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by Kelly Thompson
I am such a big fan of Wonder Boys (ha! you thought I was going to say Kavalier & Clay, didn't you? Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2003
first of all i read this book after reading The wonder boys, another fantasic book. I live in pittsburgh which partly made me love this book. Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2003 by Nell
This is the last Chabon book that I've read (even though it was his first) and he consistently proves himself a genius in my eyes. Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2003 by JR Pinto
It is probably my fault for expecting too much of a first novel. After reading Kavalier and Clay, I fell in love with Chabon's superb style and eloquence, and decided to read The... Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2003 by RV