Review: Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon


Wonder Boys is a great introduction to Michael Chabon. I have both The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union in my to read pile, but I started the weekend with a strong urge for some literary fiction. You don’t get much more literary than a literary work about the trials of writing a literary work. I saw the movie many moons ago and, as I am wont to do, I chatted a bit about the novel in an earlier post.

Grady Tripp is a writer that’s been struggling with his novel, Wonder Boys for 7+ years. He catches us up on his history so as to introduce us to other characters in his story, but in doing so warns us that some of what he remembers may not have happened. We see this theme played out again with James Leer, Tripp’s suicidal student with a classic movie obsession and a fondness for creating painfully experimental short stories. Everyone in the story has their own description of the special disease that afflicts all writers.

Tripp is our self medicated tour guide through a weekend of Pennsylvania academic writers commingling with New York Editors. At least he’s supposed to be, but the titular albatross gets overshadowed by a comedy of errors involving sex, drugs, Korean Jews, canine murder and an evil tuba. If all of this sounds like good material for a story of some sort, it’s important to know that the problem Tripp is having with his manuscript is not writers block, but something more akin to mental diarrhea. Tripp, his manuscript, his relationships, his friend’s relationships and the literary victims of proximity all find their satisfying conclusion. This is a delightfully convoluted novel that whets my appetite both for more from the author and for more fiction outside of my comfortable Science Fiction and Fantasy section.

I ended the weekend by writing a story about a small town intersection afflicted by a stoplight that I think I may submit to the Esquire Fiction Contest under the title “An Insurrection.” It strikes me as worth mentioning here as the manuscript of Wonder Boys is critiqued at one point with the words, “You have whole chapters that go for thirty and forty pages with no characters at all!” The “no characters” portion of the critique would be a valid criticism of my stoplight story. Hmm.

Also, Chapter 3 of Bone Shop is live!

~ by mentatjack on July 14, 2009.

One Response to “Review: Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon”

  1. […] decided to take one of my most recent reads, Wonder Boys (WB) and compare it to Atrocity Archives (AA). To play with 3 variables (one more than the 2 […]

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