Barbara Fang's Reviews > The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
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's review
Aug 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

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 who love him are also from Pittsburgh. His fandom is based along similar lines as Andy Warhol, the Steelers and Heinz ketchup.

I tried again. Several people told me to read Mysteries of Pittsburgh after I bemoaned my directionless wandering in my post-graduate summer spent in Pittsburgh. "You should really read it. It's all about a kid who just graduated college and spent the summer in Pittsburgh." Sounds like it'd be resonant and relevant, yes? And there were definitely some weird parallels. Art is an economics major who doesn't know why he majored in economics - I feel the same way about my economics degree. Art also lived about three blocks away from where I lived, which was pretty curious. Chabon started the book after his summer in Pittsburgh as an English writing major, and I started reading his book after my summer in Pittsburgh as an English writing major. And then there were just the mention of familiar places, streets, buildings and what have you because I did go to Pitt and did live in Oakland and Squirrel Hill and it made me wonder what it would be like to read this book without knowing exactly what he was talking about. The problem is I really only knew the places he spoke of. Other than that, it still wasn't resonating, and really, it should have been! I don't understand! I feel like I am in the ripest position to understand and feel what this book has to say to me, and all it is is just a good read. Again, great writing, engaging plot, good characters, but something is missing for me. I don't know what.

I think maybe Chabon is just a dude author, like Cormac McCarthy. I can recognize the greatness in both, but the style, tone, diction, themes and everything that is hard to distinctly pin down just appeals more to men. At least it seems that way based from whom I received the book recommendations.
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