Tag: Michael Chabon

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Posted December 3, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 6 Comments

Wonder Boys by Michael ChabonTitle: Wonder Boys (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Chabon
Published: Harper Perennial, 1995
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Grady Tripp is a writer of a few novels; following the success of his award winning novel The Land Downstairs he has set out to write his follow up. Seven years later his manuscript for Wonder Boys was over 2600 pages long and nowhere closer to being finished. In his personal life things were messed up, his wife has walked out on him, and his mistress Sara has revealed she was pregnant. Wonder Boys (1995) is Michael Chabon’s second novel following the success of his debut book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988).

Michael Chabon spent five years writing a book called Fountain City following The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Fountain City ballooned into a 1500 page novel about an architect building the perfect baseball stadium in Florida. Chabon stated that he “never felt like [he] was conceptually on steady ground.” Without telling his agent or publisher he abandoned the book and started Wonder Boys which steamed from the melodrama involved around Fountain City. The main character, Grady Tripp is apparently based on one of Chabon’s professors from University of Pittsburgh who had a 3000 pages manuscript which eventually was published in 2001.

This being my third novel by Michael Chabon, I was struck by how different this book was to the other two. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union play with intertextuality and genre blending but Wonder Boys didn’t have this at all. Sure there were some similarities, the frequent use of metaphors and recurring themes (particularly with Jewish identity) were still present but it felt very different. Wonder Boys felt raw and emotional, and now understanding the fate of Fountain City I can see the birth of this book.

Chabon plays on the ideas of how we view the stereotypical struggling writer; a person surrounded in melodrama. Wonder Boys is set over the course of one weekend in which Grady’s third wife has left him and his mistress has told him he will be a father. To make things worse, his mistress is the chancellor of the university he works at and her husband in the head of the English department, which makes him his boss. The drama continues to unfold as his agent has arrived in town in the hopes to get a peek at his new novel, which is far from finished. However that is not the half of Grady’s problems and this novel is overly dramatic to give the reader a chance to re-examine the ideas they have of a struggling writer; not all of them are Grady Tripp or Hank Moody (Californication).

Michael Chabon wanted to play with the idea of drama as a reflection of the internal struggle that is experienced with a novel that just isn’t working. Everything is over the top, much like the 1600 page novel that needs to be trimmed down and turned into a more accessible novel. However everything that Grady tries to do to make his life a little less complicated just makes everything worse. This metaphor plays out throughout the entire novel and I had to wonder if it is better to abandon the novel and start again or continue trying to fix it (this plays out near the end of this book but I won’t give spoilers). The fact this book is full of anxiety and raw emotions only serves to enhance the experience and the metaphor.

Wonder Boys was also turned into a movie starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Robert Downey, Jr. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I can see what it working on a very fundamental level but I am not sure how it would translate. The movie does seem to have a cult classic status so maybe it translated onto the screen perfectly.

Yet again I find myself being impressed with the works of Michael Chabon and a little sad that is takes me so long to read another novel of his. I have Telegraph Avenue on my TBR bookcase waiting for me but it is a bit of a tome. I have so many big books I would love to read but they still scare me, I really need to work on this problem. Wonder Boys is a wonderful and emotional journey and a great place to start if you have never read Michael Chabon before.

Monthly Review – August 2012

Posted August 31, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As August comes to a close I would love to hear what people’s thoughts were of the monthly book; The Master and Margarita. It’s a classic novel but it was a really bizarre book to read, that stayed with me for a very long time before I could finally write my thoughts on the book. But I tend to enjoy books that stay with me like that; I like books that are thought provoking. Reminder that next month we well be reading another classic for our Southern Gothic theme. While some people argue this book isn’t technically Southern Gothic, I’m sure we will have some interesting discussions on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. If you’re not aware, this book will be discussed over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

My monthly reading for August has been really great, I went into the month thinking I’ll be busy trying to read all the books I wanted to read, but while I read most of them, I surprised myself by managing seventeen books this months. I’ve read some amazing books including The Dinner, The Angel’s Game and The Age of Miracles. But the highlights for me were Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a satirical look at the war of terror and how we support the troops and The Colour of Milk, an adorable little book about a strong minded girl in 1831 trying to learn to read and write.

August’s Books

  • Mystic River by Dennis Lehane 
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi 
  • This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel 
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 
  • Thirst by L.A. Larkin 
  • Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen 
  • True Grit by Charles Portis 
  • Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood 
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon 
  • Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin 
  • A Life with Books by Julian Barnes 
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov 
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch 
  • The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker 
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 
  • The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon