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Werewolves in Their Youth: Stories Paperback – Jan 2 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (Jan. 2 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312254385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312254384
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.6 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #220,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Wonder boy Michael Chabon's second collection of stories tackles the American family in all its tragic and often frighteningly funny dysfunction. In the title story, a self-professed "King of the Retards" tries to distance himself from his next-door neighbor and only friend, who has taken their games (Plastic Man, Titanium Man, Matter-Eater Lad) just a little too far. In "House Hunting," a drunk real-estate agent shows a young couple through a house far too expensive for them, pocketing knickknacks and demonstrating a strange familiarity with its rooms. The wrenching "Son of the Wolfman" follows the aftermath of a rape; after a long struggle to conceive, Cara Glanzman becomes pregnant by her rapist and decides to keep the child, even as her husband struggles with his violent thoughts. In spite of the potential for sensationalism in such a plot, "Wolfman" is moving, unsentimental, and like the rest of these tales, wholly original.

Chabon is a master of the lively and unexpected description, his prose studded with images that split these mostly conventionally themed stories wide open. Consider his burly Quebecois carpenter, who has "a face that looked as if it had been carved with a pneumatic drill by a tiny workman dangling from the sheer granite cliff of Olivier's forehead." Or the "local drunks" of a Chubb Island bar, "a close-knit population, involved in an ongoing collective enterprise: the building, over several generations, of a basilica of failure, on whose crowded friezes they figured in vivid depictions of bankruptcy, drug rehabilitation, softball, and arrest." Or, the narrator of "Mrs. Box" and his failed marriage: "...very soon they had been forced to confront the failure of an expedition for which they had set out remarkably ill-equipped, like a couple of trans-Arctic travelers who through lack of preparation find themselves stranded and are forced to eat their dogs." Werewolves in Their Youth is worth reading for such moments alone. When Chabon uses them to illuminate our darkest impulses and fears, the result is often revelatory. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Applying his ironic talents to even darker material than in previous outings, Chabon has produced a winning collection of nine stories. Failed marriages haunt almost all the protagonists; personal disasters, depressive malaise and sexual violence are recurring themes. In "House Hunting," a realtor is more intent on stealing objects from a house than on showing it to his clients, a troubled young couple. His bizarre incompetence increases the tension between them, finally driving them into one another's arms. A young man flees town in "Mrs. Box," hoping to leave the twin disasters of his marriage and his business behind. He stops to visit his wife's senile grandmother and suddenly resolves to rob her of her jewelry, only to find a half-measure of redemption when his plan misfires. In the title story, Paul is the only one on the school playground who can call Timothy back from his werewolf fantasy, but Paul, who is already taunted for smelling weird, can't risk being associated too closely with his strange pal. As a result, Timothy attacks a fellow student and is reassigned to a "Special School." The closing tale, "In the Black Mill," presented as a story by August Van Zorn, a writer Chabon invented in Wonder Boys, is a brilliant riff on pulp horror tales featuring an archeologist who unearths the terrifying secrets of a small town. Here, Chabon is as witty as ever while dispensing with the glibness that sometimes marred his earlier work. His characters, even whey they are silly and flawed, come across as sympathetic, three-dimensional human beings. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Werewolves in their Youth started off with a bang in the title story, a first-person narrative about a boy who has a big imagination. The story after that, a couple looking for a house on the market and encountering something a little more, was good but not great. The next story was also just OK: a woman who was raped, chose to have the baby and what the husband goes through as a result.

That's when the collection lost me. Chabon didn't get me back again until the last story in the book, a fantastic old fashioned horror story about a strange town, an archeological dig, and a mythical mill where people seem to lose limbs and fingers quite frequently in accidents.

The problem with many of the stories was that they were kind of boring. They took old topics like marriage problems, break ups, moral decisions, family issues...and then didn't really do anything different with them. The stories themselves, while filled with some good writing, seemed like just that--vehicles for some of Chabon's admittedly great sentences. Unfortunately, it takes more than great writing to make a story interesting and good, and these stories lacked the magic and intrigue of his other work (aside from the title story, which is beautiful).

The thing is, there is nothing really wrong with these stories in terms of structure or theme or character or any of those conventional ways of thinking about stories. He does all these, but without flair, leaving the stories feeling kind of bland, like a soup that has all the right ingredients yet still has little flavour.
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Format: Paperback
This is a superior collection of stories to Chabon's earlier "Model World". While the first half of that collection all seemed like carbon copies of each other, "Werewolves"--though each story centers around a marriage that has either fallen apart or is in the process of falling apart--has enough variety that reading all the stories back-to-back does not become tedious.
"Son of the Wolfman", where a woman who has been having trouble conceiving with her husband is raped and impreganated by another man, is the most memorable story because of the issues it deals with. All the other stories are good as well--I won't go into describing each and every one. "The Black Mill" is an interesting little horror yarn, but it's pretty tame by today's standards. I'd suggest Chabon stick with the genre he knows best.
There's not a lot to pick on with this collection of stories. The writing is flawless, the characters are all unique oddballs, and the stories are all interesting. One thing I grew tired of was the constant description of what every room looks like and every person is wearing. A lot of description can add to the atmosphere of the scene and such, but going into what everyone is wearing is irrelevant and becomes tedious after a while.
Anyway, "Werewolves" is howlingly good collection of stories (thank you, I'll be here all week) that I would recommend over "Model World". But I still prefer his novels.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Chabon is one of my favorite writers, and this collection of stories did not disappoint. It, however, is not his best writing, as I think he's a much better writer of novels.
But there is some fun to be had here like in the title story "Werewolves in their Youth." Chabon's portrayal of children and young men is one of his most prodigious strengths (see "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay"), and in this story the unstrained imagination of the children is both funny and poignant. To escape is an important, salient theme in this story as it in his novels.
In other stories, however, his portrayal of adults fails, especially married adults. His sagacity and insights into the world of young men, just does not translate. Although these stories are not lifeless, they lack the zoetic spirit of the stories about children, and his insistence to overmanage the fates of these characters, for lack of a better word, is annoying. Does a story about a couple house hunting and having martial problems, have to be solved by them expelling their sexual energies in the house they are looking at?
But that is the only complaint I have for otherwise excellent book of short stories.
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Format: Paperback
This is the better of Chabon's two short story collections. There isn't a lot of thematic variation here - all of these stories except for the very last one are about the muddles and unpredictabilities attendant upon married life, and reading them quickly one after the other can be a bit of a downer for this reason. But Chabon has an incredible gift with language, and although a lot of his characters are losers or muddleheaded or the victims of terrible decisions, his prose makes the world around them seem so rich and pregnant with possibilities that it's difficult to find any of the yarns here too depressing. The only time he misfires is in one story that's set entirely in a neighborhood bar - Chabon clearly doesn't frequent such places, and his attempt to catch the atmosphere in one is condescending and a little cliched.
The last story, "In The Black Mill," was a special treat for me. I'm a big fan of gothic horror and this is a wonderful pastiche of M.R. James with maybe a touch of Poe. One hopes that the author never gets so soaked up in Northeastern literary culture that he begins to think that this sort of genre exercise is beneath his dignity.
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