WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon


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 Himself a former wonder boy, Chabon (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, 1988, etc.) realizes his obvious talents with this mature and hilarious novel. Writing about a struggling writer is usually a recipe for disaster, but in the acerbic voice of his narrator, Grady Tripp, Chabon has found a fabulously plush vehicle in which to romp. Tripp has published a few moderately successful novels, but he's bogged down teaching at a small Pittsburgh college and smokes so much pot that he can't seem to wrap up his magnum opus, a 2,000-plus-page novel called The Wonder Boys. Like many an author, Tripp suffers from immaturity and a need for immediate gratification; when there comes a time for adult, well-thought-out decisions, he usually opts for the choice that will make his life a mess, thus providing new material for his autobiographical fiction. During the weekend of Wordfest, the college's annual literary gathering, Tripp's best friend, Terry Crabtree--who is also his editor--comes to town to spread chaos. Crabtree begins by picking up a transvestite and a tuba at the airport, and before long he and Tripp are enmeshed in an elaborate plot that includes the accidental death of an Alaskan malamute (beloved pet of Sara Gaskell, the college chancellor and Tripp's lover), a stolen Galaxie 500, and the eventual disillusionment of Sara; Tripp's estranged wife, Emily; and all his favorite students. By the end of the weekend Tripp is in danger of having nothing left of his life but a pilfered tuba. Part Hunter Thompson, part early John Irving, Chabon's rich, evocative writing is strong and confident throughout. His wry, vulnerable wit probes the psychological landscapes of his wonderful characters, and his sparkling prose pulls the madcap story along so quickly that when the novel ends, you wish it was as endless as his hero's saga. Funny and wise, not to mention a great read. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41588-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994


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