Edwin Arnaudin's Reviews > The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
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's review
May 08, 2012

really liked it
Read from March 21 to May 03, 2012

Chabon's first novel is about as well written as debuts get. His cast of colorful characters tear through an equally appealing Pittsburgh, getting the most out of a post-college summer that's running out faster than they'd like. As friendships and romance intersect in unexpected yet unavoidable ways, much is learned about these young folks in a relatively short amount of time. Chabon writes them all with warmth and care, and in taking on intimate, risky encounters that could very easily have been fumbled in less able hands, grants taboo subjects an unexpected humanity.

The only aspect that isn't quite there is the depiction of organized crime. Chabon sets up Art as an outsider to the biz, perhaps as an excuse to not necessarily get every detail right. By distancing himself from such activity, however, and adopting an overall tone that isn't violent or dangerous (which wouldn't fit the story anyway), the mere concept of gangsters feels false, even if their eventual actions cause a major stir. Nearly 20 years later, Chabon would get it right with The Yiddish Policeman's Union, whose gumshoe tone allowed for dark moments and mixed well with his general bouncy, literary style. It's not a complete success here, but he nails so much else that's it's but a minor quibble.
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