Valerie's Reviews > The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
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Aug 27, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: novels
Read from May 16 to 18, 2015

My first experience with Michael Chabon came my last semester of college when a friend sat me down and made me watch the movie adaptation of The Wonder Boys. "This is what you need to know before you go to grad school," she said. "Eh, I'm definitely not going to grad school," I said.

A year later, I was in grad school, and in Pittsburgh at that, where Chabon's figure still looms over the literary scene. So, whoops...guess I should have taken notes.

Although I never got around to reading any of Chabon during the years I was in Pittsburgh (this is the third I've read since moving away), for two semesters I lived just blocks away from the building Mysteries of Pittsburgh refers to as "The Cloud Factory," a fact pointed out to me by multiple classmates. This is approximately 90% of the reason why I wanted to read this particular book.

For me, reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was returning to a city I loved. Though many stores and restaurants mentioned in the book had gone out of business in the 30 years between Chabon's Pittsburgh years and mine, I could still chart this story on a map. I know the weedy stairs behind the Carnegie Museum, the lush campus of Chatham College, the carriage houses, the winding cobblestone streets. I know the rest of the world might not have a high opinion of Pittsburgh, but it is really the most beautiful city I've lived in. But despite my love the physical space, I had a terrible time in Pittsburgh, so through this book I felt like I was back in Pittsburgh without the weight of my personal life.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is very well-written, however the plot is basically what you expect from a novel written by a college student. Among the slew of indie movie cliches we have the one-dimensional manic-pixie dream girl, an incredulous bisexual love-triangle, the "cool" (selfish) friend, and of course the sensitive male protagonist who just can't help it that his sexual experimentation is ruining the lives of everyone around him. Well, I don't mind that much though. I'm a huge sucker for love triangles.

In the end, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this book to someone who hasn't had my life experiences, but if you love the city of bridges or bad romance stories, preferably both, it is definitely worth your time.
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Reading Progress

05/16/2015 marked as: currently-reading
05/18/2015 marked as: read

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