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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  20,952 Ratings  ·  1,563 Reviews
The enthralling debut from bestselling novelist Michael Chabon is a penetrating narrative of complex friendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young man’s sexual identity. Chabon masterfully renders the funny, tender, and captivating first-person narrative of Art Bechstein, whose confusion and heartache echo the tones of literary forebears like The Catcher ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1988)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerMatilda by Roald DahlWatchmen by Alan Moore
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
100th out of 1,382 books — 1,648 voters
Resolve by J.J. HensleyMeasure Twice by J.J. HensleyThe Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael ChabonThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
3rd out of 58 books — 46 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 10, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, I loved this book, and kind of wanted it to be my life, the way certain people I could name but won't feel about The Sun Also Rises. I was about fifty pages in, tops, before I found myself casting the movie in my head. (I deliberately avoided looking at the cast list until after I finished reading the book; thank god I did, I would have liked the book, I estimate, about 46% less had I know while reading it that Mena Suvari plays Phlox. Appalling.) Or, to be honest, imagining myself as the le ...more
I, like tons of other goodreaders, wish we didn't have to give a book an entire star so really I rate this at a three and a half more than a four.
In any event, I know that I liked this book, I'm just not sure how much I liked it or why I liked it. I mean, if a book holds your attention to the point where you can finish it quickly and are interested in picking it up everyday does that by itself make it a great book? Or a really good book? Because this book was that for me. Then again, some really
Nikki Boisture
Jan 02, 2008 Nikki Boisture rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lindsey
Shelves: favorites
I've read this book three times. I'm trying to decide exactly what it is that I love so much about it. Michael Chabon's writing style makes me long for such skill. I get an ache in my stomach reading his works and loving them so much and wishing his words could come from me. The characters in this book aren't wonderful people, but they are wonderfully real. Art's lack of self-confidence especially speaks to me. When Art falls in love with Arthur I fell in love with Arthur right along with him. I ...more
Aug 31, 2007 Shea rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I bought this book many years ago while actually in Pittsburgh. I was visiting a girlfriend who was living there, and shortly after my arrival I was unceremoniously dumped.

Browsing the street of the unfamiliar town I was supposed to spend the next 3 days in, I stumbled upon this book. Based on title alone it seemed an appropriate subject, given my recent circumstance. I imagined myself sitting and reading for days at a bench on the Monongahela, forlornly pondering life's intricacies. Instead I w
Oct 04, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like MOST stellar first novels, this one has that autobiographic vibe that perhaps the writer's future novels will only bravely hint at. This one is a coming out story, basically. The protagonist is gay, bi, experimenting. There are overly-masculine (gay) symbols throughout which obviously take no great psychoanalyst to pry open: mysterious men in motorbikes, gangsters, gaming, the faraway suburbs seeming faraway dreams that will never be. The world so fully inhabited by BRET EASTON ELLIS is lik ...more
Rebecca Armendariz
Nov 12, 2007 Rebecca Armendariz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: girls who like boys. gay boys.
Shelves: favorites-ever
This book is my new personal favorite. Mostly because of this quote,
"Every woman is a volume of stories, a catalogue of movements, a spectacular array of images."

The other quotes I like are:

“There had been a time in high school, see, when I wrestled with the possibility that I might be gay, a torturous six-month culmination of years of unpopularity and girllessness. At night I lay in bed and coolly informed myself that I was gay and that I had better get used to it.”

“It was as though she had stu
Feb 06, 2008 Frederick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This was Michael Chabon's first novel. He was in his early twenties when it was published. It was widely praised. While many of the critics focused on the sexual ambiguities of the main character, what Chabon clearly showed here was his gift, to this day undiminished, for giving architectural landscape a personality.
In every Chabon novel or story I've read, manmade structures give meaning to the characters' actions. If I exaggerate, then allow me to clarify what I'm saying. Are the characters in
This is what I call the "It was summer and we were young" school of youthful indiscretion and confused attempts at living the Full Life.

The story is filled to the max with sexual confusion, societal yearning and emotional tug of war between what the protagonist calls his beautiful god-like people -- all put together in a sleepy, yellow-warm and lyrical package.

I had a little difficulty buying into some of the situations and characters and I'm not entirely certain the ending had been built up e
Oh my. I could read this again and again. I've been saying this tons of times, but I'm certain that the reading experience will always change, will always morph into something else. Every sentence breathes. It's so beautifully written, and many times I find myself pausing just to savor the beauty of it. Here are some quotes that I like:
“I saw that I'd been mistaken when I thought of myself as a Wall, because a wall stands between, and holds apart, two places, two worlds, whereas, if anything, I
Jul 05, 2012 Gadi rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
I'll be generous.

This book did not capture me. The writing felt amateur in ways that stunned me. I remember feeling lost in Kavalier and Clay, floating on wave after wave of blindingly gorgeous sentences, paragraphs, so complex and bold that you couldn't help but feel an awesome seasickness. Here, though, the writing is just plain old insecure. Chabon plays it like a coward, and Art sounds like a boring crybaby who we end up not liking that much because, well, he can't write fo shit.

Not that the
Dec 01, 2008 Kristen rated it it was ok
What a stupid book. The writing is uncreative and dull, the plot is close to non-existent, and sweet jesus do I ever hate these characters. All that, and an unsettling number (well, three) of sudden and sloppy accounts of buttsex. I will give credit to the early scene of the party at the Iranian woman's home and the final few paragraphs, but the ~270 pages in between are simply not worth the time.
A contemporary novel about a young man who graduates from college and spends a summer wandering about Pittsburgh. Art, our protagonist, struggles to decide between his male and female lovers, and he also attempts to navigate a risky relationship with his money laundering father, who happens to get involved with one of Art's new friends, Cleveland, an intelligent and disillusioned biker. Throughout all of these relationships Art gets closer to discovering what makes him himself, the most puzzling ...more
Apr 05, 2008 Tung rated it it was ok
My fourth Chabon work in a row after having read Final Solution, Model World, and Werewolves in their Youth in the past few weeks. Thankfully, this is the last of his early works for me to read, since I don’t know how much more unpolished Chabon I can take. Mysteries is Chabon’s first published work, his master’s thesis at Cal-Irvine. The book takes place in Pittsburgh at an unnamed college, and revolves around a college student named Art Bechstein whose father is a Jewish gangster. Art meets se ...more
Take a dull boy in a dull city during a dull, liminal summer. Not an adult but soon-to-be, not really anything yet but certain he will be. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh begins at this doorway and records Art Bechstein’s quest for a summer of whimsy and profundity that will change him for the better.

June finds Art making fantastic new friends who all seem to know how to live better than he does. Inspired, Art sits atop a hill in Pittsburgh and thinks this:
I smoked and looked down at the bottom of
Apr 11, 2016 Oscar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Los misterios de Pittsburgh’ fue la primera novela de Michael Chabon, y en ella se encuentra el germen de lo que es su magnífica carrera literaria. Sin ser una novela redonda, sí contiene la suficiente calidad como para convertirla en una lectura imprescindible para comprender lo que serían las siguientes obras de Chabon, sobre todo ‘Chicos prodigiosos’ y la obra maestra que es ‘Las asombrosas aventuras de Kavalier y Clay’, ganadora del Pulitzer, sin olvidar sus excelentes relatos, muchos de el ...more
Lidia Mascaró
Aug 24, 2015 Lidia Mascaró rated it really liked it
Holy hell.. Where to start? I picked this book out of a library shelf by pure coincidence; the only reason why it caught my eye was because I happened to be watching a television show at the time that was set in Pittsburgh. Flipping it around, I skimmed over the critiques and read "... it will find its place beside 'On the Road' and 'The Catcher in the Rye'". That's all it took for me to take it over to the cash register.

Michael Chabon, what a genius. The way the book is written reminds you of j
Ben Carroll
Jun 06, 2011 Ben Carroll rated it liked it
There's something bittersweet about delving into a favourite author's early work. It's pretty exciting to see how an author has grown over the years; what talents they always had, what weaknesses they have or haven't lost, which aspects were seeded long before they were developed.

But on the other, more emotive and less rational, hand; what tainted greatness, how boringly humanising, how utterly demythologising. I mean, it's really comfortable to believe that greatness is something separate, inhe
Jun 11, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
I saw the awful adaptation of this book recently and was so impressed by the tone of the piece and what lay at the heart of the mess they made they I immediately decided that the book should be moved to the top of my to be read list. Now I can safely say that it was an adaptation in names and places only yet the tone and heart was lost in a different type of mess.

Perhaps mess is too strong a word for describing the book, I just couldn't connect with it and didn't really care about what I was rea
Jan 10, 2009 Jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Holden Caulfield lovers
Recommended to Jess by: Lexi, i think
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 13, 2009 Renee rated it did not like it
I went to add this book and couldn't remember the title, in spite of having just finished it this month. That's a good approximation of my experience with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh--pretty forgettable. It's one of those moody books set in a roughly indiscriminate time period (it's clear from the text that it's supposed to be some point between 1980 and 1990, but the way it's written it could easily be 1920...or 50...or 72) that's primarily concerned with characterization and not really interes ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Mar 20, 2015 Mattia Ravasi rated it really liked it
An amazingly fast and fun coming-of-age novel about sex and friendship. Perhaps I speak in hindsight but it almost feels like Chabon is forcing himself to write Realist/Respectable Fiction instead of Good Fiction, and has to suppress his skills here and there. It's still an enriching and entertaining book.
Mar 06, 2008 Leah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely loved this book and would have finished it within a day or two, had it not been for a spoiler I accidentally stumbled upon regarding a character death. Because of that, the last 50 or so pages took me ages to get through; I really didn't want that particular character to meet his end, though now that I think of it, there was a good amount of foreshadowing in the beginning and middle of the book.

I grew up just outside Pittsburgh and am going to school here, so all of the places menti
Dec 20, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing
i do love michael chabon...
this book has been no different so far...this is his first novel and you can sort of tell...his language is a bit more self conscious and you can really feel him trying to impress you...the thing is, he does...
his command of linguistic expression is very very good...and his ability to weave multiple characters together and build their complexity through interaction is extremely effective and never feel him losing control of the characters or the plot th
Nov 20, 2013 Rob rated it liked it
Michael Chabon before he became Michael Chabon. There's a lot to like in his debut novel, but it's also (like many first novels) very aware of itself. Florid turns of phrase abound, and there are moments where I can practically hear the author smacking his lips in self-satisfaction.

And yet.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't relate pretty strongly to recent college graduate Art Bechstein. The summer immediately after college is one that still hangs heavy with me, and I very vividly remember experien
Daniel Parsons
Feb 08, 2010 Daniel Parsons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
"Some people really know how to have a good time"

There are books that so (seemingly) effortlessly capture the world in which they are written that you feel you are living, breathing, and sharing the air with the characters. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's first novel and completed to fulfil his master's requirement at the age of twenty-four, is such a book. I lived all 240 glorious pages - and when I wasn't reading I was daydreaming and dreaming about Art Bechenstein's (the narrat

Jeffrey Hart
Jan 22, 2015 Jeffrey Hart rated it really liked it
I picked this one up at my local bookstore because it is another Michael Chabon novel set in Pittsburgh. Those of us who grew up in Western Pennsylvania will read just about anything that deals with the region. Although this novel was written before Wonder Boys, and it seems to reflect a younger sensability than the later book, still the grittiness of Pittsburgh is brought out nicely. I particularly liked the reference to a "cloud factory" that was in a deep ravine next to the Carnegie Museum in ...more
Daniel Kanhai
Nov 14, 2011 Daniel Kanhai rated it liked it
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon, Harper Perennial, New York, 2005

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, first novel by young author Michael Chabon, is a coming of age story that tells the tale of Art Bechstein, a recent college graduate trying to find his way the summer before entering the real world. Art I unsure of where he wants to go in life and determined to distance himself from his family. His father is a Jewish money launderer and gangster, a fact that brings Art deep feelings of sha
Mar 06, 2007 Jake rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone feeling nostalgic for college or feeling anxious about leaving.
This book is incredibly evocative of the time right after college graduation - I just graduated in May of last year, and it still hits me now when I read it nine months later.

While the writing leaves a little to be desired, and some of the scenes are over the top, most readers would probably just write it off as an expected issue with an author's first novel. Some might argue that no real person talks like these characters do. To be perfectly honest, I know too many people who talk like this. F
Barbara Fang
Aug 26, 2011 Barbara Fang rated it really liked it
Many folks that I know have been sucking Chabon's literary dick for a while now. I picked up Wonder Boys a few years back, and okay, yes, he's a strong writer. I'll gladly admit that the man really knows how to string a sentence together. Overall, though, I can't say that he was particularly resonant with me. The themes, the characters, even the tone of voice - nothing really rang out with genius. I thought that maybe he's only popular because he's from Pittsburgh, and most of the people I know ...more
Feb 05, 2016 kat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-read, kindle
Meeeeeeeeeeeh. The characters were half-baked and unlikable. The whole "these people changed me so I never have to see them again" thing was annoying and the most egregious example of the book's problem with telling and not showing. Dare I say it: This would have been better as a movie.

(Yes, I know there is a movie. But I haven't seen it, so I don't know if that particular movie is better than the book, but what I'm saying is the platonic ideal of a movie would definitely be better than this boo
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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was mad ...more
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“Drunk, Jane spoke as though she were Nancy Drew. I was a fool for a girl with a dainty lexicon.” 469 likes
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