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Wonder Boys

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In his first novel since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Chabon presents a hilarious and heartbreaking work—the story of the friendship between the "wonder boys"—Grady, an aging writer who has lost his way, and Crabtree, whose relentless debauchery is capsizing his career.

383 pages, Paperback

First published March 14, 1995

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About the author

Michael Chabon

175 books8,076 followers
Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. One of America’s most distinctive voices, Chabon has been called “a magical prose stylist” by the New York Times Book Review, and is known for his lively writing, nostalgia for bygone modes of storytelling, and deep empathy for the human predicament.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,149 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
June 8, 2020
”I had lost everything: novel, publisher, wife, lover; the admiration of my best student; all of the fruit of the last decade of my life. I had no family, no friends, no car, and probably, after this weekend, no job. I sat back in my chair, and as I did so I heard the unmistakable crinkle of a plastic bag. I reached into my torn hip pocket of my jacket and passed my hand through the hole, into the lining, where I found my little piece of Humboldt County, warm from the heat of my body.”

At the very beginning of this novel, Grady Tripp has lost or been on the verge of losing all of the important things he has listed above, but it takes the length of this novel for denial to be replaced by the cold, hard face of reality.

He has a certain level of charm, a certain level of intelligence, but truth be known, his days of being one of the wonder boys of writing are long past. He is like a high school quarterback who still talks about his days on the playing field long after his football cleats have molded and turned to rust. He keeps hope alive by continuing to work on an epic novel, his grand masterpiece, a bloated, indulgent, horse-choking size manuscript that he...never...wants...to...finish. He doesn’t want anyone to read it for fear that his illusions about the novel will be shattered and the last vestiges of hope of ever publishing another novel will be dashed. At the same time, he wants someone to read it so he can feel vindicated.

The fear outweighs the desire for exoneration.

So how does a tuba, a dead dog, and three quarters of a boa constrictor end up in the trunk of Grady’s “stolen” 1966 maroon Ford Galaxie?

Ahh yes, the Devil is in the details.

Grady’s wife has left him because she found out he was sleeping with his boss’s wife. ”I intended to get involved with Sara Gaskell from the moment I saw her, to get involved with her articulate fingers, with the severe engineering of combs and barrettes that prevented her russet hair from falling to her hips, with her conversation that flowed in unnavigable oxbows between opposing shores of tenderness and ironical invective, with the smoke of her interminable cigarettes.” Sara is also one of those people who has a book with her all the time. She reads while waiting for a movie to start. She reads while her food is microwaving. She reads during any spare minute that life will give her.

As I’m sitting here rereading this quote, I keep thinking about the words involved in that sentence and how nice it was to read a book by an author using a higher level of vocabulary. I’ve been very disappointed in recent years with most new adult books reading like they’ve been put through a young adult word strainer. Michael Chabon is a gifted writer, and his love of the language is on constant display throughout the novel.

To make matters worse, Sara is pregnant. We only get to spend a few days with Grady Tripp, but the thing that is readily apparent is that Grady is an all-star at cratering his life.

As if a pregnant mistress and an AWOL wife are not big enough issues for him to deal with, he also has several other chaotic walking disasters waiting to explode in his face.

His favorite student, Hannah Green, is in love with him, and she is just too damn pretty to be resisted. His most gifted student, James Leer, is suicidal. His best friend and agent, Terry Crabtree, has come to town, dragging along a transvestite with him, to inform Tripp that his career is in jeopardy and his best hope is that Tripp has written the great American novel that will salvage his career and put Grady back among the pantheon of Wonder Boys, or should we say Wonder Elderly?

Grady is also smoking WAY too much herb.

“It’s always hard for me to tell the difference between denial and what used to be known as hope.” Chabon scatters sentences like that throughout the novel that had me thinking about what is hope? Is denial really the worst thing? Isn’t denial sometimes the only way we can have any hope? Whenever I take a hard, critical look at my life, the easiest thing to do is crush all the hope out of the equation. Hope is most of the time ethereal and untethered to logic, but without hope how does the magic happen? Those magical moments when something goes unexpectedly well, or a major issue in our lives reaches a resolution without our intercession, or a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger out of the blue does something that makes us believe in the basic goodness of humanity again.

Needless to say, the misadventures of Grady Tripp snowball to the point that I did wonder if he needed to just hop in the Galaxie and drive to New Mexico to let the desert sun melt away his indiscretions, his blunders, his failures. Can Grady grab a branch large enough to hold him as he free falls to the bottom of the deepening crater of his life?

Oh, and let’s not forget about the dead dog, the three quarters of a boa constrictor, and the tuba in the trunk. These are mere nuances in the greater scheme of his disastrous life, but they must be dealt with as well.

There is also a movie from 2000 with Michael Douglas as Grady, Robert Downey Jr. as Crabtree, and Tobey Maguire as James Leer. The movie isn’t as good as the book, but it is an enjoyable romp that captures the campus humor of the book.

This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. I’ve got a copy of Chabon’s first book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh on the way. I have a feeling it will prove to be an impressive writing debut.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/
Profile Image for Mandy.
61 reviews1 follower
September 24, 2007
Second only to Catcher in the Rye in my all-time favorite list of books. If you are a writer, if you've taken a creative writing class, if you've verged on totally and completely fucking up your life with sweet redemption held just at your fingertips, but which you chose to thumb your nose at for just a teensy bit longer....god, read this book. If you love prose, good prose, jubillant, wild, ecstatic indulgent prose, read Chabon. I just want to roll around in his words and bathe in it like a bubble bath and candlelight and a glass of champagne. I love this book, messy, huge, overwrought, comedic, tragic, careening towards a great big crash at the end -- I love it all. It's what I love about life, it's what I love about literature -- I like it big and messy and joyous. Did I mention I love this book? And Grady -- he's my second favorite literary character of all time -- second only to Holden Caulfield.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
February 9, 2017
What the heck have I been doing with my life! Wonder Boys has been one of my favorite movies of all time because it hits all the wonderful buttons of writing and reading and being deliciously messed up and being so HUMAN.

And then somewhere along the line I read The Yiddish Policemen's Union and I still didn't make the connection.

So when I DID finally make the connection that one of favorite movies was really based on a book by an author I already described to myself as "wonderfully inventive and crazy", I made a facepalm that even my great-grandfather felt.

So here I read the novel at long last. And it was like coming home. It was the greatest comfort food. It was all of the joyous mess and the compilation of all cautionary tales about writers and writing that I've ever seen. :)

It was pure joy.

Grady is such a mess. But his problem isn't that he has writer's block. He has the other problem. No constipation here! He also has a bit of the Midnight thing, too. And a drug problem. But he's also got heart and he still believes that he'll conquer the world. You know. Eventually. :)

And then here comes another mess to compliment his own in the form of his editor. And then a young student who's just as nuts but who has at least finished his novel, and all of them get into one horrible mess after another.

Expect dead dogs, Marylin Monroe, Vernon's butt-cheeks, elevators and expulsion. :) I can't describe how wonderful this novel is because it just feels like a puzzle piece that slides right in and tells me that I'm not only just as flawed as these kids, but that I must be just as crazy as them if I can identify so strongly.

Oops. There goes my right to carry around my Sanity Badge... well at least I don't have to keep paying the monthly dues. :)

This is going to be one of my long time favorite novels and I might just revisit it regularly. It is SUCH a delight. :) Crazy delight. :)

Go write! :) LOL.
Profile Image for Dusty Myers.
57 reviews24 followers
October 2, 2007
For a straight man, Chabon is very gay friendly. I know there's been stuff written, possibly by Chabon himself, about early gay liaisons he undertook, but now the man's married with three, four kids. And yet Chabon's smart enough to write this:

"[James] looked over at Crabtree with a smile that was crooked and half grateful. He didn't seem particularly distressed or bewildered, I thought, on awakening to his first morning as a lover of men. While he worked his way up the buttons of my old flannel shirt, he kept glancing over at Crabtree, not in any mawkish way but with a deliberateness and an air of wonder, as if studying Crabtree, memorizing the geometry of his knees and elbows."

Indeed, at every point in the novel where Crabtree—the editor of the novel's narrator, Grady Tripp, who teaches James Leer in his fiction workshop—is shown gallivanting with a drag queen or seducing James, his sexuality is taken very much in stride. He's, sure, a bit of a predator, but he's so in all facets of his personality. The drugs and debauchery he pushes on other characters is far more threatening than his unforced deflowering of Grady's student.

One other thing that rings true and respectable in the novel is this point Grady makes after he realizes Crabtree won't be publishing his 2000-page unfinished novel:

"It's not fashionable, I know, in this unromantic age, for a reasonably straight man to think of finding his destiny in the love of another man, but that was how I'd always thought of Crabtree. I guess you could say that in a strange sort of way I'd always believed that Crabtree was my man, and I was his."

For a while there's been a strange part of me that has tried to argue that it's gay men that make the friendships among men more important or noteworthy somehow, that, like, in introducing the laughable danger of potential one-way attraction, or maybe just the simple idea of men finding it in themselves to devote their lives to other men, the lines between gay and straight are properly blurred, and whatever it means to be a man gets attached to a more full and honorable set of attributes.

I'm not sure I have the rhetorical ammo to fully develop the argument, but Chabon's novel seems to be pointing to something I've felt for a few years now.
Profile Image for mark.
Author 3 books42 followers
May 29, 2009
Wonder Boys
Over Christmas I met a woman named Storm. When she found out I was a writer she became excited and inquisitive. Her therapist, she said, told her she should "reinvent" herself so she signed up for a five-day writer's workshop. She asked me all sorts of questions and I answered truthfully. I told her writing was a great way to find out who you are, and also, a great way to express yourself.

Now I come home and find this book "Wonder Boys" on my bookshelf and it's calling out to me" "Read me!" This novel angered me. I felt it was dishonest and made a mockery of fiction writers and the craft of writing. It is the story of a creative writing professor who can't finish his epic novel. The "Wonder Boys" is a novel about writing the Wonder Boys, and takes place over the course of two days in which the protagonist is constantly stoned and/or drunk as he manages to fuckup his entire life (but comes out living happily ever after): He survives his wife leaving him; has his novel rejected by his editor and 20yr old beautiful female student; loses the manuscrpit; gets bit by a dog; is an accessory to several crimes, gets skulled with a baseball bat; gets fired; and has the self-discovery that he is a fraud. After these events, the baseball-bat-wheeling man's wife (who the hero has gotten pregnant) decides to marry him, support him, and get him a new job.

How's that for reality? Ironic because a point the author, Michael Chabon, makes is that fiction should reveal truths. I agree with that. If the life of writers is like what Chabon depicts ... well, no wonder the world is so fucked up. This is presented as a comedy. (It was made into a movie.) I didn't laugh once in reading it. I didn't cry once. I found myself only getting aggitated by its stupidity. The author makes a point of being critical of the protagonist's novel because it goes off point and rambles on and on with irrelevant discriptions. I often skipped pages of this novel for that very thing. The same can be said for the characters ... I didn't identify, or like, any of them. There was not a scene in the novel that I felt was authentic.

How's this for humor: The editor/publisher is the protagonist's best friend, and gay. He is on the backside of forty. He takes a twenty year old, suicidal, male student (who is the child of his grandfather, who raped his mother) and drugs him; and then uses him for sexual gratification. Then he rewards him by publishing HIS iffy novel and dumps the protagonist's.

One reviewer said that this novel was about "... the only things that really matter." I guess what matters is getting published and laid; and that it does NOT matter how one gets to that end, or who gets hurt in the process.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,813 followers
July 28, 2009
This is the second book I've read recently that involved the main character being an adulterer, impregnating someone other than his wife, and generally being such a screw-up that they wreck the life of anyone who depends on them. But while I hated Rabbit from Rabbit, Run to the point of wishing he was real so I could find him and pummel him with a baseball bat, I actually LIKED Grady Tripp and rooted for him to put down the joint and get his act together.

I'd read Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and I liked both those books, but this was the first book of his that I felt a real emotional attachment to the characters. Grady isn't a bad guy. He's just a doofus pothead who has let his love of weed dictate his life. His avoidance of making hard choices has paralyzed him, especially with the writing of his monster novel that has swollen to over 2000 pages because of his inability to decide what it's about. And because he can't stand conflict, he avoids breaking bad news which just draws out all of his problems.

Grady's weekend adventures with his talented but weird student, James Leer, while trying to avoid his editor, makes for a sadly funny story about a middle-aged man trying not to hurt the people in his life while not realizing that he already has and now is just running in circles to avoid the fall-out.

This could have been a very depressing book, or just another tale of middle aged ennui, but its sad sense of humor and likable characters keep it entertaining.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 10 books420 followers
May 9, 2014
On the surface, Grady Tripp is probably one of the most loathsome individuals I have ever read about in literature—he’s spent seven years on a 2,611 page monstrosity that has gone absolutely nowhere and like his life meandered everywhere, he’s come to the dissolution of his third marriage, he’s carried on an affair for about five years with the married chancellor who is now carrying his child, he’s smoked an entire football field of weed, and yet he can’t seem to cut himself off, and he harbors a certain amount of jealousy for James Leer, a student of his who has managed to finish his novel, while he has not—and yet I liked him anyway, and I couldn’t wait to see what crisis he would manage to find himself in the middle of next. He’s a train wreck, but he’s a somewhat loveable train wreck all the same, because he recognizes that he’s a complete and utter mess, and he has little, if any, hope for redemption.

This novel works, because Grady Tripp has a heart. He’s a man filled with misguided direction and false hope, and yet he still continues to go forth and attempt to conquer the world. He may have flushed seven years of his life down the toilet working on a novel that even he knows doesn’t really work, but he still believes there’s an ending out there somewhere for it, and all he has to do is find it. Like the main character, the prose of WONDER BOYS is both elegant and disturbing, and it’s a beautiful read from the first page to the last. And I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
614 reviews117 followers
June 12, 2021
The following is a revised review having finished the second reading today.

Chabon won the Pulitzer for "Kavalier and Klay" and Wonder Boys is at the same level. The story of Grady Tripp, a pot smoking English professor at a small university, we're taken on a journey to the annual Word Fest program, a celebration of writing, authors, agents and publishers. Characters are complex and filled with surprises especially the quirky young student who manages to kill the Chancellor's dog and make off with her husband's prized possession. Tripp's close friend and editor Crabtree does little to help either. Filled with hijinx, emotional trauma and laugh out loud humor, Chabon broke the mold with this one! Having seen the Michael Douglas, Robert Downey film many times, the adaption does justice to the book though like most, its been 'rearranged'. For those who enjoy stories about writers, publishers and wacky people, make sure to add this to your list. Rest assured, you will NOT be sorry!
Profile Image for Cher.
801 reviews275 followers
July 24, 2014
1 star - I really hated it.

Somewhere around the part where the main character requested a pen to draw faces on his "wiener" (the author's fancy word choice, not mine) as he "pissed" behind a tree, I came to the realization that the remaining 179 pages were probably going to be just as unsatisfactory as the first 209 had been. Immediately after deciding to officially DNF this one, I smiled for the first time since I had chosen to pick it up. For a book that screams, "Look at me! I'm funny. I'm so, so, so funny. Did you see that, right there? I was funny", it was decidedly unfunny. The good news is that I was able to remove four other books from my TBR pile. Clearly, Chabon and I were not made for each other.

Maybe if I enjoyed meandering plots where the author babbles on about senseless things but nothing actually progresses, maybe if I still had the maturity level of an 8 year old, or maybe if I had a wiener, then maybe, just maybe I could trudge through the remaining 46%, but I can't. I just can't.

Favorite Quote: N/A.

First Sentence: The first real writer I ever knew was a man who did all of his work under the name of August Van Zorn.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books925 followers
October 21, 2022
Unfortunately, there's a long history of books set in academia where the protagonist a.) is a professor, b.) is an alcoholic or substance abuser, c.) is having trouble getting it up (it = his writing muse), and d.) is tempted by or tempting to the tender vittles we know and love as co-eds. Given how cliche all of this is, you would think that authors would consider this formula strictly where angels fear to tread, but no.

Welcome to WONDER BOYS, Michael Chabon's novel about a washed-up writer slash professor with a weed habit, a book he cannot finish, a bevy of babes (some young enough to be his daughter) to choose from, and a penchant for disaster. The title comes from the behemoth of a novel Grady Tripp cannot finish, but you needn't Wonder why when you see the lifestyle he lives.

Of all the books I've read of this ilk, the only one to pull it off with aplomb is Thomas Williams' THE HAIR OF HAROLD ROUX -- also named after the professor slash alcoholic's book-in-progress. Only, happily, Williams devoted whole swaths of his book to the novel-within-a-novel, which Chabon does little if any of.

It wasn't until a hundred pages in that I realized what Chabon was up to. Yes, this was a comic novel. The problem was in timing. As I read, I kept saying how yes, this could be funny, but only in a movie. In book form, the rather ponderous narrative kept slowing the punchlines down, but the visuals -- blessed with the right actors -- could do wonders with this work. I looked it up and found that it was made into a movie with Michael Douglas and Robert Downey, Jr., as Crabapple, Tripp's gay and diabolical editor who is out to seduce one of Tripp's vulnerable students, a wannabe (what else?) writer named James (played by Tobey Macguire in the film I have yet to see).

The book lumbers along with set scenes at a seder (Tripp's estranged wife's family) for Passover out in the country and at bars, his pregnant girlfriend's house, and the various buildings of the campus. It would help to like Grady Tripp more, but it's hard to do. Is there anything more pitiful, after all, than a middle-aged man still doing weed? And he's filled with so much self-loathing that you can't help but give him an assist after a while (with the loathing, I mean).

In the end, all's well that ends well, as Chabon chooses the Shakespearean comedy route for his denouement. Again, the violins swell as moviedom tries to sweep the book away. Did he write it with Hollywood in mind? Odd, considering it is a book purportedly "about writers."

Not bad, but unsatisfying in the end. For me, the freshman outing called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh remains Chabon's best.
Profile Image for mwana .
369 reviews207 followers
November 18, 2020
Dnf 50%

This is just well written swill. I can't take any more of Grady. I just can't. The main character in this book honestly doesn't deserve that kind of writing.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,891 reviews218 followers
July 31, 2019
A writer/professor, Grady Tripp, has been in the process of writing his fourth novel for seven years, with no end in sight, though he tells anyone that asks he is “almost finished.” At Tripp’s invitation, his friend and editor, Terry Crabtree, shows up to attend the college’s annual writer’s conference. Crabtree hopes to obtain the long-awaited novel from Tripp, as he needs it to save his job. Tripp’s personal life is in turmoil due to his adultery. He is using so much marijuana that it is affecting his judgment and is not helping him finish his 2600-page (and counting) tome. Tripp is conflict-avoidant and has trouble making choices, but people are drawn to his congenial nature. He keeps procrastinating until decisions are made for him by default. Before the weekend is over, he will lose and gain relationships, influences impressionable students (not always in a good way), experience close encounters with an unruly dog and a boa constrictor, search for an expensive piece of a memorabilia collection, attend a Passover Seder with a Jewish family, several native Koreans, and a few lapsed Christians, and store a tuba and an assortment of unlikely items in the trunk of his car.

This book is a wild ride. The writing is outstanding. Chabon employs vivid and detailed imagery and his prose is imbued with a sense of energy. Although the story goes a bit over-the-top, it is filled with sardonic humor and tidbits that keep the reader engaged in trying to figure out what else could happen, and how it will end. I felt immersed in the story. The themes include identity, creativity, sexuality, substance abuse, storytelling, and aging. I had previously read two of the author’s works, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (which I loved) and Moonglow (which I didn’t), so I was interested to see how this book stacked up. It is more similar to the former than the latter but not as far-reaching in scope. Chabon walks the fine line between entertainment and message, absurdity and philosophy, and pulls it off quite impressively.
Profile Image for Aaron McQuiston.
493 reviews19 followers
May 11, 2012
If we were to categorize books that have literary merit but are depressingly non-enjoyable in a human sense, "Wonder Boys" would be a front runner. Michael Chabon can write. I give him that. Michael Chabon also writes the worst books I've ever read. Here you have a story about a writer (that's a tough plot to start with) that is not in touch with reality (the character is even harder to write) whom screws everything up because it is much easier to do the wrong thing than to be right all the time. I know this creates conflict, and Grady Tripp and all his pot-smoking shenanigans are supposed to make us sympathetic for the life that he has created for himself, but honestly, I could care less. The biggest problem with any of this is that a novel about how hard it is to write a novel is a complete waste of time. In the end, his overall loser mentality makes him insufferable.

But Chabon can write. This is really the only redeeming quality in any of his books I have read. I wanted badly to like "Wonder Boys," and I tried to put my "Tripp is a horrible character" bias aside and go with the flow. The problem is that there is a Seder supper in the middle of this book, an 80 page drool of boring, meaningless garbage that really gave me time to 1. think about how much I hate the main character and 2. start really hating him. The Seder supper could be the worst middle section of a novel I have ever slugged through. It lasted forever and there was no real reason for so much emphasis to be placed on this one scene (Spoiler: None of the Seder stuff matters in the end).

In the end, if you are curious about this novel at all, watch the movie. Michael Chabon's novel (as is all of his novels) is saggy. There is just too much excess for it to be enjoyable. For once I can say that the movie cuts out a lot of the worthless garbage and streamlines the story much better than the novel. I'm done with Chabon books.
Profile Image for Jenn(ifer).
159 reviews950 followers
February 5, 2012
Michael Chabon!! Where have you been all my life? What a great book! I loved the film version, but the book is even better. I must admit, it was impossible not to picture Michael Douglas and Toby Maguire as I read, but that's not a bad thing. I love the character Grady Tripp. He's just the type of guy I would have fallen for in my youth: ridiculously intelligent, creative, professorial, and hopelessly, tragically flawed. "As long as she was falling in love with me, I might as well start making her promises I didn't intend to keep." Ah, Grady, you would have totally done me in.

Anyway, great read, I highly recommend it, especially to those of you who like John Irving. It will certainly appeal to you.
Profile Image for Jake.
293 reviews40 followers
June 20, 2007
He tried far too hard to be eclectic, over the top, and kitschy. The entire novel came off as insincere. The only likable characters, in my opinion, were Hannah and Sara, because they were the only ones with any kind of grip on the real world. Grady was a slacker and an asshole, Crabtree was a disturbing, self-absorbed douchebag, and James was just pathetic in every way. Actually, I take that back. Emily's parents, the Warshaws, are entirely likable. How can you not love old Jewish parents?

The entire book was a mess as Grady just skated through disaster after disaster with no real consequences for his horrendously immature and asinine behavior. I'm also bothered by the fact that they made both Grady and Crabtree more presentable and even likable by casting Michael Douglas and Robert Downey, Jr., respectively, in their roles. Crabtree is at least 10 or 15 years older than RDJ, and the casting throws doubts into how they handled the film. I'd be interested to see how they handle Crabtree's borderline pedophiliac obsession with James. Most of me doesn't even want to watch the movie, but I know I will eventually just because of Frances McDormand.

I still think Mysteries of Pittsburgh was his best work, but I've only read three of them now. Kavalier and Clay was good enough, but this book was thoroughly mediocre; I was excessively unimpressed.
Profile Image for Kuszma.
2,192 reviews152 followers
May 13, 2023
"...ha pedig meg lehet menteni, akkor még jobban elcseszni is el lehet."

Road roman, ha van egyáltalán ilyen kategória. (Mostantól van.) Tripp professzor (beszélő név!) évek óta ápolgatott írói válsága őrült hétvégében kulminál, miután megérkezik vendégségbe enyhén toxikus irodalmi ügynöke, és melléjük csapódik szuicid tanítványa. Aminek következtében meghal néhány jobb sorsra érdemes állat, összetörik egynémely szív, minden, ami elcsesződhet, az elcsesződni látszik, sőt még az is, ami nem. Chabon gyeplőkezelési technikája markáns, száguld velünk a szöveg paripája, ha van is prózai holtág, hát csak azért, hogy annál jobban érezzük utána a sebesség élményét.

Közben meg nyilván nem csak arról van szó, hogy szaladjunk, szaladjunk, hadd lobogjon. Hanem az írók legnagyobb félelme van itten kivesézve: hogy hiába vagyunk írók, már nem tudunk írni - és milyen író is az, aki nem ír? Vagy - ami tán még rosszabb - ír ugyan, de képtelen kirágni magát a saját szövegéből. Görget maga előtt egy több ezer oldalas regénymonstrumot, ami csak nem akar véget érni, csak nem akar lezáródni, agyonnyomja puszta súlyával szegény teremtőjét. A kudarctól való félelem és a frusztráció pedig rossz döntéseket szül, ilyen értelemben pedig maga is a kudarc előszobája. Mintha az író azzal remélné kezelni az alkotói problémákat, hogy saját életét megoldhatatlan problémák tárházává alakítja át - hátha a személyes kudarcok sorozata hozza el végül az írói kudarc megoldását. Hát, elég vakmerő kísérlet, ami azt illeti. Mintha a fogfájást azzal akarnánk megszüntetni, hogy leugrunk egy viaduktról.

Bizonyos tekintetben elég fésületlen regény, ami azonban nem áll rosszul neki - ez mintha hitelesítené, hogy Chabon valódi félelmeket gyúrt (némiképp terápiás céllal) regénnyé. Ráadásul van benne egy szemernyi feelgood-íz is, talán mert bármennyire toxikusak is ezek az arcok, mégiscsak az a lényeg, hogy szükségük van egymásra. Ettől nem tudjuk kozmikus elbaltázásaikat elintézni egy "hát, így jártál"-lal, hanem drukkolunk, az elcseszések kolosszális halma alól azért bányásszanak ki valamit, amitől az egész értelmet nyer.
Profile Image for . . . _ _ _ . . ..
284 reviews146 followers
November 29, 2020
Θυμάμαι πριν πολλά, πολλά χρόνια ήμουν χαρούμενος. Είχα πάει να δω την ταινία στον κινηματογράφο. Τι ταινία ! Τι σενάριο ! Τι ερμηνείες ! Τι τραγούδι ! (Την ίδια χρονιά που ήταν υποψήφιο για Οσκαρ και το I have seen it all της Bjork, αν είχα δικαίωμα ψήφου στην Ακαδημία θα είχα σχιζοφρενιάσει).
Την ίδια χρονιά είχα πάρει και το βιβλίο στα αγγλικά γιατί δεν είχε βγει στα ελληνικά. Από τότε πέρασαν πολλά, πολλά χρόνια. Δεν είμαι ευτυχισμένος. Δεν βλέπω πια ταινίες. Πήγα σινεμά πέρισυ μετά από 6 χρόνια στα Παράσιτα και μετά έκλεισαν οι σινεμάδες ελέω covid (Και πριν τα 6 χρόνια είχα πάει σε 2 ταινίες σε μια χρονιά, όταν έβλεπα 4-5 ταινίες το μήνα για την πλάκα μου. Και πριν αυτές τις 2 ταινίες...δεν ξέρω). Δεν παρακολουθώ πια τα Όσκαρ, δεν ακούω καινούριες μουσικές εκτός αν το Youtube βγάλει προτεινόμενο κανένα της Φουρέιρα αλλά συνήθως έχει στα προτεινόμενα κάτι ράπερ από την Σιάτιστα (ΝΟΟΥ ΚΙΝΤΙΝΓΚ)
Δεν έπιασα ποτέ το βιβλίο γιατί νομίζω τα αγγλικά μου είναι καλά (αν και με προφορά Τσίπρα), αλλά όχι τόσο καλά ώστε να διαβάσω ένα ολόκληρο βιβλίο, αλλά ελέω lockdown το έπιασα (Funny story : πριν 9 χρόνια ήμουν για δουλειά στη μαγευτική Κω. Κάτι ξέκωλα Αγγλίδες που θέλανε να πάρουν ένα ματσάκι μαϊντανό ή άνιθο (αναρωτιέμαι τι να τον έκαναν), δείχνουν την πινακίδα που έλεγε ξερωγω 1 ευρω και με ρωτάνε "Per kilo?" Και εγώ τις απαντάω "Per match" ΤΟ ΜΑΤΣΑΚΙ !!!!! -Μην είστε τέτοιοι, πείτε μου εσείς δηλαδή πως θα το λέγατε).
Όπως και στην ταινία που ακολουθεί κατά γράμμα το βιβλίο από ότι μπορώ να θυμηθώ (αν και τον ρόλο της ερωμένης πρέπει να το έκαναν πιο μεγάλο, εξ ου τον έδωσαν και στην Φράνσις ΜακΝτόρμαντ), τίποτα δεν γίνεται (ή γίνονται κάτι δήθεν ευτράπελα), αλλά αυτό το τίποτα σε ένα κατά τα άλλα δηθενίστικο σέτινγκ (βλέπε campus novel) είναι σπουδαίο τίποτα με ένα θεσπέσιο θίασο από misfits . Έχει και ένα όμορφο trans β ρόλο before it was cool, και αφήνει να αναπνεύσουν χαρακτήρες. Δείτε αυτή την ταινία (παταγώδης εμπορική αποτυχία παρά τους σταρ που πληρώθηκαν με τον "βασικό" νομίζω), διαβάστε αυτό το βιβλίο. Δυστυχώς δεν βρήκα στο βιβλίο το αστείο που θυμάμαι τόσα χρόνια μετά από την ταινία με τον "teenage cop". (Πρέπει να το δείτε στην ταινία για να το πιάσετε I guess...)
Profile Image for Paul Lockman.
245 reviews6 followers
December 1, 2019
Loved it. A real hoot. 5 stars. Straight to my 2019 favourites shelf and will probably add it to my all-time favourites too. I have a vague recollection of reading a few pages of Moonglow by this author and not being particularly motivated to continue reading it, so I was a little apprehensive when recently given Wonder Boys as a present. It was therefore an unexpected delight how much I enjoyed this book.

Chabon tells us the story of Professor Grady Tripp, a pot head trying so hard to get his novel Wonder Boys finished. But he’s been at it for years now and it’s in need of some serious editing and an appropriate ending and when his agent Crabtree comes to town Tripp is trying hard to convince him that the novel is nearly ready. Tripp’s marriage is fraying at the edges and his long-time affair with Sara, the Chancellor at the university where he teaches, has come to a critical juncture when Sara has some important news. Such a wild ride we go on and at times it’s laugh out loud funny. The wit is very dry and acerbic but with a good degree of self-deprecation. Be warned, Grady Tripp is not a particularly likeable character but for me this didn’t matter at all, I had such a great time. I reckon if you like Richard Russo there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy Wonder Boys.
Profile Image for Nick Younker.
Author 15 books56 followers
January 1, 2019
This is one of my favorite novels of all time. Although I didn't particularly like one section that dragged ass with his estranged wife's family, this book has major page turning power and it kept me engaged all the way through. Chabon has talent, and the world should know it.
Profile Image for John.
27 reviews9 followers
July 14, 2009
Trifling. After I put this down that's the only thing I could think of that would accurately convey what I was feeling after burning precious brain cells and wasting God-given minutes I'll never get back. But maybe I was wrong? After all when Chabon first appeared on the scene along with Ethan Canin, they were the "boy wonders" of literature - talented, handsome, smart, with big book deals to boot. They'd set the publishing world on fire; who was I to try and put out the flame?

So, one day I was having lunch with a publishing friend of mine and we were talking about books we'd read. Now Cork was salt of the earth; one of the giants of publishing, an editor of unimpeachable judgement and taste - this guy had forgotten more about good writing than most editors will ever know. So I asked him what he thought about Chabon. Apparently he'd been submitted one of Chabon's novels for consideration to publish. He was reading it, finding it pleasant enough but nothing special and he got to the critical juncture in the manuscript. The central action centered on this guy and two women he was deeply involved with, at the same time and was having a heck of time trying to decide which one he wanted to be with. back and forth, back and forth like an off-key Cameo tune he went. So finally he decided to make this momentous decision the only way he could figure out how to - by flipping a coin."I almost threw the manscript against the wall!" is how Cork described his reaction.

Just like I thought. Trifling.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,559 reviews852 followers
February 6, 2020
Wonder Boys is a book that I must surely lobe beyond all reasoning? — It's about old writers and young writers, as well as about reviews, readers, publishes, you know, the bookish masses, people who care deeply about words and book awards even though they are aware lots of people think its all ... well rubbsih!
The book just didn't grab me at all, I don't know if it is the writing or the story, I just didn't care; but as this was 2005, this is most certainly looking to be added to my 2020 tbr, as the book is well-liked, and maybe my younger self didn't appreciate that? Currently it stands with my original score of 3 out of 12. It was also quite telling that I classified this as a comedy!
Profile Image for Lyubov.
363 reviews194 followers
March 9, 2019
A funny morbid tale that includes a dead dog, a smashed snake and a tuba.
You can tell that it is an early work of Chabon but you still enjoy the ride.
Profile Image for Dolores.
33 reviews23 followers
September 11, 2007
I read this book after I saw the movie, so I am judging it a bit backwards. I read with a vision in my head of the way the characters were portrayed in the film, and tried to envision them the way Michael Chabon wrote them. For example, in the book, Grady Tripp is a large, imposing man, and his friend and editor, Terry Crabtree, is the same age as he is, and they have been friends since college. Of course, in the film, the slender Michael Douglas plays Grady, and Robert Downey, Jr. plays Crabtree, making him about 20 years younger. But, things always change when books are adapted to film. I think the screenwriter did a fine job adapting this novel to the screen, and keeping it fairly faithful to the book.
Michael Chabon is a very descriptive writer, as far as feelings, sensations, smells and the like. He focuses mainly on Grady Tripp as narrator here, and a lot on Crabtree and James Leer. He is also more open about Crabtree's sexuality in the book, although it wasn't exactly hidden in the movie. There were also some changes, like the name and breed of the dog, which seemed kind of unnecessary.

All in all, I found this book a well-written page turner, with a very interesting protaganist, the confused, dope-smoking, blocked writer, Grady Tripp. There is much more about his estranged wife and family in the book, and the ending isn't quite as uplifting as the film, plus, I would have liked an epilogue of what happened to the characters after the novel was over. Although, the ending of the book is more realistic and ambivalent than the film.

I couldn't wait to finish the book, and then view the movie again. It's rare that a film is so accurate to the novel and so well-casted. Especially since the author himself did not adapt the screenplay, it is amazingly like the book in almost every way. I couldn't wait to finish the book, because I was really caught up in the lives of the characters. Michael Chabon is definitely a very good writer, and I want to read his other novels, so that I can read them without the pre-existing condition of having seen the film.

Profile Image for Stef Smulders.
Author 18 books117 followers
June 12, 2017
I was not expecting to ever quit a book by Chabon but this one turned out not to be to my taste. Characters not knowing where to go and what to do, a story that has no direction either. And all the detailed descriptions (do I really need to know the way even the minor characters are dressed, what they look like, how they smell?) slow down the pace even more. I could appreciate the humor and most of the writing, although even here the author is exaggerating in all his metaphores, many of which are sharp but quite a few make little sense. In summary: this book is over the top.
Profile Image for John Anthony.
731 reviews93 followers
January 28, 2022
An all embracing title – firstly the title of the novel on which our central character and narrator, the aptly named Grady Tripp, has been working for the past eight years or so. He is an American academic, stoned much of the time. His life, like the characters in his book, is chaotic and the people he hangs around with in the ‘actual’ book are too. But Grady, Crabtree and James qualify as Wonder Boys too, surely?

Funny, touching and exquisitely written and a definite re-read - to pick up on all the stuff I missed.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
702 reviews137 followers
December 16, 2016
Even chaos can become predictable. Marijuana, alcohol, three marriages, an ongoing infidelity with his department head's wife, a peripatetic silver-tongued agent who pops drugs like tic-tacs, and a seven year publishing dry spell have been shepherding the hapless main character, author Grady Tripp, to the fateful weekend chronicled in this novel. It's a weekend that will arouse atomized glimpses of self-awareness in Tripp.

Chabon has stashed a cache of writerly tics in his character. Grady's maiden novel Bottomlands (1976) was a literary thunderbolt. Critical accolades, best-seller status, a slender second novel The Arsonist's Girl and a lucrative third novel followed. Since then, nothing. The problem is not writer's block. Tripp has been laboring on a chimerical monstrosity titled Wonder Boys (not referencing Wunderkinder but a multi-generational family tree headed by patriarch Culloden Wonder). He's now at over 2000 pages with no clear ending in sight. Tripp confides almost boastfully: “I had too much to write: too many fine and miserable buildings to construct and streets to name and clock towers to set chiming, too many characters to raise up from the dirt like flowers whose petals I peeled down to the intricate frail organs within, too many terrible genetic and fiduciary secrets to dig up and bury and dig up again, too many divorces to grant, heirs to disinherit, trysts to arrange, letters to misdirect into evil hands, innocent children to slay with rheumatic fever, women to leave unfulfilled and hopeless, men to drive to adultery and theft, fires to agitate at the hearts of ancient houses....I was nowhere near the end.” (Location 159)

Like the title, it's another one of Chabon's jokes. His own novel erupts with architectural minutiae and new peripheral characters emerging as if from some sort of cosmic clown car. In addition to the principal characters — Tripp's precocious fragile creative writing student James Leer; his amoral agent clad insect-like in an irridescent green suit, Terry Crabtree; and university chancellor Sara Gaskill who is Tripp's current coupling partner; Chabon introduces August Van Zorn (pen name Albert Vetch), a minor horror story writer who committed suicide; Tripp's current wife Emily along with her entire family who gather at a fractured Seder celebration; Tripp's own father Little George, an unbalanced war veteran turned policeman who also committed suicide; Sara's father Joseph Tedesco, an assistant groundskeeper at Forbes Field; James Leer's complacent country clubber parents Fred and Amanda; Cleon Clement, a bouncer at the local watering hole the Hi Hat; a transvestite named Antonia/Tony Sloviak; Hannah Green, a lodger and creative writing student; and John Jose Fahey, a writer who apparently did suffer from writer's block. Fahey was run over by a casino's armored car, an incident that boosted sales of his final book submission to his publisher. Cash giveth and cash taketh away, but not necessarily in that order.

Tripp's name is yet another joke in the same vein. The narrative of the plot is a road trip forced into numerous detours and seen through the trippy drug hazed eyes of the three participants. Their state is conducive to their tenuous connection to reality. They inhabit a writer's world of inversions. Reality looks surreal; the imaginary feels real. At the Hi Hat the three notice a small guy with a deformed face and an out of date pompadour. The challenge of creating a fictional backstory for him is irresistible: a fly-weight boxer, a jockey trampled by his mount, an ex-matador.... In the car Tripp and his student Leer notice what looks like the quintessential family next door. “ 'Look at them,' said James. 'They look like replicants.'” (Location 2073) Sober and undrugged, Tripp can barely manage the social niceties required at an academic gathering of writers. His mind is an obsessive probe seeking material to exploit in a fictional concoction. The mind becomes an echo chamber telling itself reassuring lies. This is the writer's disease. Tripp calls it the midnight disease. In a rare moment of clarity Tripp reflects: “It is said that acute insomniacs often experienced a kind of queasy blurring of the lines between dreams and wakefulness, their waking lives taking on some of the surprising tedium of a nightmare. Maybe the midnight disease was like that, too. After a while you lost the ability to distinguish between your fictional and actual worlds; you confused yourself with your characters, and the random happenings of your life with the machinations of a plot.” (Location 3275)

These three men, so much alike, are incapable of candor even with each other. Crabtree asks Tripp how his book is coming, and Tripp assures him he's almost finished. He's lying, and Crabtree knows it. Leer, it turns out, has told everyone some really big whoppers. Whenever one of the characters assures the others that things will be OK, it is a cue to the reader that more disasters are waiting in the wings.

A surprising instance of clarity is voiced early on by the transvestite, Tony Sloviak. Crabtree had turned his attentions to Leer after a quickie with Sloviak as Antonia. Tripp drives Tony home and tries to offer some consolation but Tony's dispassionate response is clear-sighted: “ 'Your friend, Crabtree, he's just looking for, I don't know, novelty, or whatever. He's into collec, like collecting, you know, weird tricks. Mind?'” (Location 1284)

Even the bond between Tripp and Crabtree (Tripp's oldest friend) was consummated on literary ground. In their short story class both of them plagiarized from the same obscure story by the same obscure author. The friendship is consecrated by a baptism of ice water, dumped on Tripp in reprisal by a young woman he had been dodging.

This is a book that teases the reader. Chabon has a great deal of fun puncturing what romantic myths we may have accumulated about writers. The self-loathing of his characters would be alienating if not for the extravagant accumulation of absurdities and individuality of his characters. This is the sort of book that may not appeal on the first reading. The characters are at first not only unsympathetic but appalling. The direction of the narrative is not at all predictable. It took me a second reading to appreciate Chabon's careful structure and sly sense of humor. Reading it is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. There's a special delight in discovering how each piece fits together.

Roger Ebert reviews the film adaptation of this book at
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,686 followers
September 20, 2014
A strong, early Chabon. It has all the things that I love about Michael Chabon: the quirky characters, the beautiful filigreed prose, the androgenous and ambiguous lovers. But, it also contains more warmth and crazy energy than some of his later books. And I appreciate that. I appreciate the feeling that this book ran past Chabon's careful editing. Its kinetic narrative isn't about to be slowed by careful massaging. To Hell with all that. In someways it feels a bit like the Pastoral Wanderings of Don Quixote (just replace Rocinante and Sancho Panza with a dead dog and a tuba). IT also at times feels like a Greek New Comedy with the chorus singing through the vortex ring of Afghan Indica pot smoke. So yeah, I liked it good enough.

- Robert Farwell / Edward Jones library / Mesa, AZ 2014
Profile Image for Jeremy.
201 reviews6 followers
July 4, 2017
Great read, much to think about, in terms of the creative process, life, marriage, academia, addiction, youth, aging, suicide...it's also a tour de force of tiny bursts of comic commentary. Some sentences just ripple with arch satire, sarcasm, and deft instantaneous comic portrayals of characters and situations, where truth is hilarious and hilarity rings true.
I saw the movie first, loved it, and hesitated for a long time to read the book, thinking either that there would be nothing to add, or that to the extent it was different, I would be disappointed. But while there are some crucial differences in the plot and characters (as there would almost have to be with any complex novel brought to the screen), what is different here is in many ways better than what was in the movie. In particular, the soon to be ex wife and her family are almost absent from the movie, but here they are vivid. Also different is the degree to which we come to know the failed novel at the center of this marvelous novel.
I've also read Kavelier and Clay, and while I think that was marginally better, the two books together show the extraordinary range of Chabon's talent. They are very different settings, main characters, and concerns, and indeed, in some ways, styles of writing.
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