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Wonder Boys: A Novel Paperback – Apr 29 2008
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
I'm not going to go through the plot, but I will state that this was my first time reading Chabon, and he has quickly become one of my favorite writers. James Leer and Terry Crabtree were my favorite characters and there were moments I found myself laughing out loud in the quietest section of my school library.
The novel did drag on a bit for me whenever Tripp went to visit his ex-wifes family for the Passover Seder, but other than that, the story flowed pretty well.
I loved these characters and became attached to them pretty quickly. Chabon has the ability to make you care for certain characters, even if you know you would never be able to get along with them if they truly did exist. With this novel, he created a simple story about ones man situation which would, at moments, get worse than it was before but everything eventually works itself, even if it's through publishing bribery as was one instance.
While this isn't Chabon's best work, I am actually considering re-reading it if I ever get the copy I loaned out to a friend of mine back.
The story takes place over the course of WordFest weekend, an annual Pittsburgh writer's festival put on by Tripp's university. The event's main attraction, a famous author identified only as "Q.," bemoans and celebrates his "doppelganger, a malignant shadow who lived in the mirrors and under the floorboards and behind the drapes of his own existence, haunting all of Q.'s personal relationships and all of his commerce with the world." This mischievous double would pop up occasionally "to ensure that human misfortune...continued unabated in Q.'s life. Otherwise, of course, there would be nothing to write about."
After his opening speech, Q. is never again seen in anything but a state of alcoholic catatonia. But Tripp finds much to sympathize with in this speech, calling his own version "the midnight disease."
Tripp's own role at the festival is nebulous and seems to consist mostly of providing entertainment for his old college chum, current editor and flamboyant homosexual Terry Crabtree, who arrives towing a transvestite he met on the plane, but soon dumps her in favor of Tripp's darkly tormented and talented student James Leer.
As the festival opens, Tripp is terrified Crabtree will demand to see his novel. At 2,600 pages it has five unsuitable endings. And his third wife, Emily, has left him - although it takes him a full day to absorb the signs, having consigned them to paranoia generated by his perpetual marijuana fog.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Stoner Michael Chabon finishes a book about a stoner trying to finish a book. I'm told you can smoke the pages.Published 4 months ago by John Clark
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. Read morePublished on March 18 2014 by Kindle Customer
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... Read morePublished on Dec 8 2004 by John Payne
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon deftly avoided the sophomore slump with "Wonder Boys," a followup to the unique "Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by E. A Solinas
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. Read morePublished on March 17 2004 by Stephen G. Brauer
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 morePublished on Jan. 9 2004 by Peggy Vincent
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 morePublished on Sept. 22 2003 by Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel
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 morePublished on Sept. 11 2003