Patrick Gibson's Reviews > Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
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Jan 06, 10

bookshelves: contemporary-literature
Read in January, 2010, read count: 2

It's hard to summarize why this book is as good as it is. Mostly, I think, it stems from the narrator's tone which mixes a gloom that things will never be what they were along with playfulness in accepting that the past is gone.

The crux of this novel is the sliding manner of the relationships between the narrator - a faded author named Grady Little, his publisher Terry Crabtree, and their student/protegée James Leer - whose suicidal exterior and studied eccentricity masks an acute talent for writing fiction. The power struggles the three engage in during a drunken writer's convention at the University of Pittsburgh result in a complete reversal of fortune for two of the three main characters (who are the titular Wonder Boys), and a general change of lifestyle for the third.

Also in the mix of this frothy book are an obsession with old Hollywood starlets, a dead dog, a divorce, a pregnancy, and a transvestite clutching a tuba case.

When I finished reading Wonder Boys, I was torn with admiration for Chabon's accomplishment and bitter jealousy that someone can write such a book. I won't pretend that everybody will like this novel - I can picture many of my friends disliking it. But I stand by its merits: brilliantly funny and sad, and capturing its milieu of faded academic glory superbly.
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