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Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel Paperback – Jul 5 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 5 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060790598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060790592
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #185,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.


"Astonishing."--" The New York Times ""Remarkable."" Los Angeles Times ""Extraordinary."" Village Voice "There's a lot of talk about this novel. It's almost as if there's going to be a great big literary bash. The guys who will be on the guest list are a cinch. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield. ... And now, from" The Mysteries of Pittsburgh ," Art Bechstein."--" Washington Post Book World ""A very daring, vivid and exciting book."--" Cosmopolitan ""Absolutely terrific... Michael Chabon continues in that great tradition [of Dickens'" Our Mutual Friend" and Fitzgerald's" The Great Gatsby "]... Anybody can write a realistic account of his first postgraduation summer of growing up and making love, but to make such a story the stuff of legend, as Chabon has done here (and Fitzgerald did before him), takes something close to genius."--" Playboy ""Simply, the best first novel I've read in years. ... It will find its place beside" On the Road" and" Catcher in the Rye .""-- Carolyn Forche"[A] very funny and very eloquent book -- a book that both earns and wears easily such adjectives as 'brilliant'..." The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is a funny, charming, hugely entertaining and excellently written book."--" Pittsburgh Press "The quiet lushness of both the concept and the language are typical of Chabon's fresh, convincing style. What makes the novel extraordinary, however, is the exactness and care with which he manipulates such images and patterns of imagery. ... Making a reader experience again a sense of endless possibility is one of the most satisfying and quintessentially American things an American Bildungsroman can do. Chabon's" The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" addsto the canon one of the rare novels actually able to do it.--" Village Voice "Remarkable. ... What makes this book -- and Chabon -- worth our attentiation is [that] Chabon has chosen not merely to record all the ills of an oversexed, overindulged generation with nowhere to go but to bed or to a bar; he has chosen to explore, to enter this world and try to find what makes it work, why love and friendship choose to visit some, deny others.--" Los Angeles Times "Chabon's writing is deft and delicate -- almost every page includes a delightful phrase or two. He mingles dialogue, the Pittsburgh cityscape, descriptions of the characters' acticity and Art's thoughts and feelings to achieve that magical illusion good novels give -- that the reader is living the character's life with all its savors, jokes and pangs.--" Boston Herald "Chabon writes with unusual sensitivity. His beautifully realized characters are revealed through the perfect pitch of his dialogue.--" Denver Post "Astonishing. ... The voice of a young writer with tremendous skill as he discovers, joyously, just what his words can do.-- Alice McDermott, " New York Times "A thoroughly wonderful novel. ... [It] did two things no book had done for me in a long time: it made me feel good and it took me completely by surprise.David Leavitt

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading the other reviews, it seems that fans of Chabon are a little harsh in their reviews of this book ... although it does not compare to Wonder Boys or Kavalier & Clay, the Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a fun read and a charming tale. The larger-than-life personae in this book and the general course of the novel draws immediate comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and of course while such comparisons will come up short, Mysteries of Pittsburgh is an enjoyable, artfully constructed book full of unforgettable characters.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of Chabon's stuff. But I began in the middle of his oeuvre, then over time worked forwards, then backwards. So maybe this informed my reaction to this, his début.

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
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Format: Paperback
"The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" was Michael Chabon's first novel, and it certainly feels like 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.
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Format: Paperback
Part straight, part gay, part student, part bookstore employee and full time narcissist, Art Beckstein spends his summer after college graduation looking for love, I mean friends, I mean direction I mean . . .? From a lovers spat on a street corner where he meets Art Lecomte (who looks at the couple fighting and remarks "Some people really know how to have a good time") to the basement library where Phlox lies in wait, to the once regal Pittsburgh Hotel where he father's mob gang hangs out, Art's summer becomes full of booze, small time crime and back-alley liaisons (more ways than one).
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."
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