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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  19,411 ratings  ·  1,483 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 January 1st 1988)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardMatilda by Roald DahlWatchmen by Alan Moore
Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
96th out of 1,199 books — 1,236 voters
Resolve by J.J. HensleyMeasure Twice by J.J. HensleyThe Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael ChabonMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
3rd out of 49 books — 36 voters

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Community Reviews

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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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Rebecca Armendariz
Nov 12, 2007 Rebecca Armendariz rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Aug 31, 2007 Shea rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Jul 05, 2012 Gadi rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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.
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
‘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
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
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
Jan 10, 2009 Jess rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
Daniel Kanhai
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
A.K. Benninghofen
"It is always so simple, and so complicating, to accept an apology."
As I tend to do, for various reasons, I've read Chabon out-of-order, getting to his first novel after reading two of his more recent ones. Mysteries of Pittsburgh is all the more remarkable for being his debut work. What Chabon always seems to deliver is a fascinating plot embroidered with marvelously lyrical language. For example, from the opening chapter of the novel: "...It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand-story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a ...more
I came away from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh with very complicated feelings. The narrator of this is such a narcissist. He fascinated me and I ate this book up, but I also felt slightly sick over it. His friends are just as self-obsessed as he is, so it's not as if there was one character that I felt deserved a happy ending, and honestly I thought the ending fit the book well. The narrative makes it clear that the summer was rolling toward disaster; the book delivered that quite well, if quietly ...more
Eric Novello
Da fase de literatura do cotidiano do Michael Chabon, desfila personagens humanos que acabamos por ter como amigos de bar após algumas páginas. Aqui, como de hábito (o início do hábito?), mostra seu ponto de vista crítico a preconceitos, como homofobia. A leitura é parte do projeto pessoal de ler e reler tudo que for possível do Chabon esse ano.
I loved all the books I read by Chabon, some of them more and some less, but I loved them all. When I saw it on the shelf, his first novel, I had to pull it out.
I enjoyed it, really, and there was something comforting about it that I can't explain. There are books that do this.
Linguistically it was very... how to say... playful. I had a real pleasure to fly over the lines. Every picture make sense as long as you really think about it and the metaphors - extravagant. Pittsburgh, according to this
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon 6 49 Feb 14, 2015 07:13PM  
Ties to Other Works 1 16 Sep 29, 2014 07:44AM  
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  • Was
  • Pittsburgh Noir
  • Object of My Affection
  • The Beautiful Room Is Empty
  • The Lay of the Land
  • The Lost Language of Cranes
  • The Fortress of Solitude
  • The Mighty Walzer
  • Everyday People
  • Zuckerman Bound: The Ghost Writer / Zuckerman Unbound / The Anatomy Lesson / The Prague Orgy
  • The Ice Storm
  • The Broom of the System
  • Zeroville
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Here They Come
  • Arkansas
  • Among the Missing
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
More about Michael Chabon...
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay The Yiddish Policemen's Union Wonder Boys Telegraph Avenue The Final Solution

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