The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  17,083 ratings  ·  1,339 reviews
The acclaimed New York Times bestseller.

The sheltered son of a Jewish mobster, Art Bechstein leaps into his first summer as a college graduate as cluelessly as he capered through his school years. But new friends and lovers are eager to guide him through these sultry days of last-ditch youthful alienation and sexual confusion--in a blue-collar city where the mundane can so...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1988)
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Best Books of the Decade: 1980's
77th out of 913 books — 993 voters
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Pittsburgh
1st out of 46 books — 18 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mark
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
Shelly
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...more
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
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...more
Frederick
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...more
Tung
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
Speedtribes
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...more
Shea
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...more
Oscar
‘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
Kristen
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.
Jess
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.
Gadi
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...more
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...more
Rob
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 experie...more
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

...more
Tfitoby
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...more
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...more
Renee
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
Jake
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...more
Kate
This is Michael Chabon's first novel and I really enjoyed it. It's about the summer after Art Bechstein finishes college and before he figures out the rest of his life. It's a topsy turvey kind of summer where a lot of things don't make sense right off the bat, but by the end, they become glaringly obvious.

I really liked the unique descriptions of the people, the places in and around Pittsburgh, and the situations all the characters find themselves in. I think the format of the book, interlockin...more
Elizabeth
I wish I had read this book when I was in my early twenties rather than on the cusp of my (gasp) thirties. At that point, I am certain it would have been a **five star** novel, and easily would have catapulted to the top of a select group of novels whose stories and language managed to perfectly capture that particular blend of angst and abandon that characterized my life at that point. Of course, I'm not so old now as to not recognize how brilliantly this novel does depict the magic of collegia...more
Mowey
hail thee to the Gods of literature for the Michaels. After Cunningham, what a ride, now, with Chabon!

talking about personal connection with my books, this one had it for me, big time. it is seriously familiar.

why? cos whenever i'm not with my real friends when i do get home, i have Arthur, Cleveland, Artie, Jane & Phlox in the pages. and it feels the same. these are friends who are smart, who love having dinner or coffee and just engange themselves in some energetic talks. who will rant y...more
Jung
Chabon’s first novel published when he was 24 or whereabouts. All in all I find nothing remarkable about the book. Characters are lifeless and I don’t really give a hoot about any of them, especially the main narrator who just breezes by and seems to let things happen to him.

So at the start he get picked up by Arthur who is gay and goes to a party full of beautiful people and makes friends. Who cares? Then he gets a girlfriend named Phlox who is blond and strange and who I also don’t give a fuck...more
Jason
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 affecting...you never feel him losing control of the characters or the plot th...more
trina
Aug 22, 2010 trina rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: monkeys looking for things to fling besides poop
all i can say is, wtf? wtf were you thinking, michael chabon, author i so admire usually? wtf were you thinking, myriad reviewers who rated this an excellent book and praised art bechstein as another iconographic youth, a veritable archetype of young manhood in the late 20th century, and chabon as a promising young writer? this book is so perplexingly not-what-i-expected that my brain is making a hissing static noise as i try to think about it.

so i guess i can cut him a break because it was his...more
Maureen
here's the thing: i'm always with chabon right at the beginning. i think, "yeah, i'm starting to see why all these people are crazy about chabon" and then my attention begins to wander, and i feel myself getting antsy and i am thinking "aren't we done yet? how the hell did we get here from there?" and then it's the end, and i'm annoyed with him "goddamn you, chabon. you snaked me once again". this, his first novel, was for me, no different.

i liked the easy beginning, the promise of what mysteri...more
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
Alec
I have been on a Michael Chabon kick, reading Telegraph Avenue for a story on Oakland (and because I wanted to). I'd never read his first novel. What a magnificent beast it is. The protagonist is drifting after graduation, unwisely staying in Pittsburgh where he did his undergrad, working in a hilariously described bad, chain bookstore. He falls in with a group as glamorous and mysterious, as bright and fucked up as the kids in Secret History: uberblonde, out of the Philadelphia Story, Jane; gay...more
christa
Art Bechstein has just graduated from college, broken up with his girlfriend, and has an entire summer with which to play. When his father, vaguely identified as a gangster, asks him about his plans, Art answers:

"I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray."

On his way out of the library for the last time, he meets Arthur, intreguing and gay, who absorbs Art into a new friend-group of hyper-real characters and teeming with sexual tension: The mythical and beautiful...more
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
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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.” 462 likes
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