Last year in my A to Z Reading Challenge I read Fear and Loathing
in Las Vegas, written by Hunter S. Thomson . I loathed that book, which was a gratuitous orgy of abuse of drugs, alcohol, and women . There was no redeeming value. Michael Chabon, in writing Wonder Boys,
has told the tale of another author also caught in a personal struggle with the "midnight disease."
Grady Tripp is a professor of creative writing at an unnamed university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (the movie of the same name was filmed on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh). Grady is a weak man. Early in the story he realizes his third wife has left him and wonders if she has learned that he is having an affair with his boss' wife, who happens to be the chancellor of the university where he works. For the past 7 years Grady has been writing his fourth novel, an epic tale about the Wonder family; the manuscript has grown to 2,611 pages with no end in sight. He suffers from "the midnight disease," hypergraphia -- the driving compulsion to write. And he smokes pot, lots of pot, all day long. Over the span of one spring weekend, the weekend of Wordfest, we see Grady's life spiraling downward toward his death --"I rose like a kite, in fits, tethered to the mortal husk of Grady Tripp by a thin pearly string. Below me Pittsburgh lay spread, brick and blacktop and iron bridges, fog in its hollows, half hidden by rain. The wind snapped at the flap of my jacket and rang in my ears like blood. There were birds in my hair. A jagged beard of ice grew from my chin. I'm not making this up. I heard Sara Gaskell calling my name, and looked down, way down into the fog and rain of my life on earth, and saw her kneeling beside my body, blowing her breath into my lungs."
Does Grady Tripp die? Would his entire life have been as futile as writing his name in water? Read Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon, and find out for yourself.