Brian's Reviews > Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
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Apr 03, 2012

it was amazing
Read from February 15 to April 03, 2012 — I own a copy

This novel was simply excellent. I thought long and hard about how else I would describe it, but excellent is what I kept coming back to. Some stories excel with plot, others with the characters, and others with the beautiful writing; this novel has all three in spades.

First, to the plot. One of the first things writers are told they must do with their stories is keep ratcheting up the tension until the climax. Some writers do this well, while others get distracted by some scene they've conjured up in their head and simply cannot let it go, despite the fact that it meanders and bores the reader. Chabon here takes an incredible situation and just keeps making it more and more tense until its inevitable release. There is honestly not a single scene I would have changed or altered, because all of it works so marvelously to keep the pace of the novel moving. And beyond tension inducing, the plot is absolutely hilarious. Tubas, blind dogs, a manuscript thousands of pages long, a man with an invented and entirely fictional backstory as a jockey...all of this dots Chabon's landscape. I was constantly wondering how in the heck this series of insanely funny events was all going to resolve itself, and when it did, it felt perfect.

And then there's the characters of Grady Tripp, James Leer and Terry Crabtree. Grady Tripp is perhaps the best self destructive protagonist I have ever encountered. Grady smokes too much pot, makes incredibly questionable decisions on a near constant basis, is practically never sorry for the end results of these decisions and is almost always making excuses for himself. At the same time, Chabon makes you feel sympathetic for Grady, and when things quickly unravel, you somehow feel sorry for him. I recall several times thinking that if I ever knew Grady Tripp in real life, I would judge him harshly for his wasting of every chance and for his impossible pursuit of his id's every desire. But somehow, you just can't help but root for the guy. James Leer is another terrifically conceived character; his obsession with Hollywood, his inability to tell the truth, his talent (or lack thereof?), and his attention seeking behavior while simultaneously trying to avoid the limelight all make for a complex and deep person. Finally, Terry Crabtree, a mischievous man with a love-hate relationship with Grady, rounds out a trio of excellent subjects. The women of the novel are likewise wonderful, but perhaps because they are not nearly as driven to reckless stupidity I didn't find them nearly as entertaining.

Finally, the writing is some of the best prose I've read in awhile. I may have driven my Goodreads friends a little crazy over the last few weeks with the sheer number of quotes I've noted from the book, but I was struck by how Chabon was always able to find just the right words to describe the situation or convey the sentiment in a way to make my heart soar or plummet.

In short, for me this was a masterpiece. A hilarious romp through one crazy weekend with unforgettable characters and wonderful prose, I think that I'll stick with my word of praise for the novel: excellent.
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Quotes Brian Liked

Michael Chabon
“I’m a man who falls in love so easily, and with such reckless lack of consideration for the consequences of my actions, that from the very first instant of entering into a marriage I become, almost by definition, an adulterer.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon
“I’d spent my whole life waiting to awake on an ordinary morning in the town that was destined to be my home, in the arms of the woman I was destined to love, knowing the people and doing the work that would make up the changing but essentially invariable landscape of my particular destiny. ”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon
“A few other couples joined us on the dance floor and we lost ourselves among them. I'd never been able to figure out exactly what was involved in slow dancing, so I contented myself, as I had since high school, with gripping my partner to me, letting out awkward breaths against her ear, and tipping from foot to foot like someone waiting for a bus. I could feel the sweat cooling on her forearms and smell a trace of apples in her hair.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon
“Other than along certain emotional tangents there was little in the book that felt as if it had actually been lived. It was a fiction produced by someone who knew only fictions, The Tempest as written by isolate Miranda, raised on the romances in her father's library.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon
“Although it wasn't raining anymore, the air was still heavy with water, and rain gutters were ringing all over Point Breeze.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys
tags: rain

Michael Chabon
“As long as she was falling in love with me, I might as well start making her promises I didn't intend to keep.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon
“He looked so profoundly disappointed in me that I wondered for a moment if he was someone I knew.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys


Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Great review, Brian! I'm really glad you loved this book! Michael Chabon is a fantastic writer!! I loved this book and Mysteries of Pittsburgh! And just for the record... I loved the quotes you chose!! I can relate to your sentiment.. I have been driving everyone crazy over how obsessed I've been with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green!:)


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