Review: Wonder Boys

Michael Chabon (1995)

This book clinches it–Michael Chabon is officially elevated to favorite author status. As I’m reading his body of work in reverse chronological order (first Kavalier & Clay, and now Wonder Boys, and soon–very soon–The Mysteries of Pittsburgh) I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and eagerly anticipating his next book.

Similar to the great books of Richard Russo (Straight Man, Mohawk, and Nobody’s Fool,) Wonder Boys centers on a middle-aged man whose life is stuck in neutral, dogged by his past and screwing up his future. Grady Trip is a published author whose next book has been seven years in the making, and at 700-plus words, has yet to find an ending. Grady’s marriage is in free fall; he’s having an affair with the university Chancellor (who’s coincidentally his boss’ wife.) His editor, and life-long friend and drinking buddy, has arrived in town on the arm of a transvestite, and he’s eager to read Grady’s completed book. James Leer, Grady’s most gifted (and suicidal) student has an obsession with Hollywood stars who’ve offed themselves, and it’s his accidental shooting of the Chancellor’s one-eyed dog that kicks-off Grady’s journey of self-discovery. Add to that a family of Korean Jews, a fair amount of pot smoking, and an omnipresent tuba and you have the ingredients for a very funny and poignant story. [*****]

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I’m reading the works of my favorite author (or one of them, anyway), Muriel Spark, in semi-chronological order. It’s interesting to see how an author uses the same themes, but in different ways, in a body of work. Lends credence to the idea that writers spend the first half of their lives living them, and the second half figuring them out via their stories.

  2. RAJA

    My next novel may take 7 years, but I don’t have the time to find as many mixed up people as Grady does–have to rely on the locals!
    My philsopohy–akin to the comment by Karen–is that we spend the first half of our lives building our mazes and the last half wandering around in them.

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