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Werewolves in Their Youth: Stories Paperback – January 2, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Wonder boy Michael Chabon's second collection of stories tackles the American family in all its tragic and often frighteningly funny dysfunction. In the title story, a self-professed "King of the Retards" tries to distance himself from his next-door neighbor and only friend, who has taken their games (Plastic Man, Titanium Man, Matter-Eater Lad) just a little too far. In "House Hunting," a drunk real-estate agent shows a young couple through a house far too expensive for them, pocketing knickknacks and demonstrating a strange familiarity with its rooms. The wrenching "Son of the Wolfman" follows the aftermath of a rape; after a long struggle to conceive, Cara Glanzman becomes pregnant by her rapist and decides to keep the child, even as her husband struggles with his violent thoughts. In spite of the potential for sensationalism in such a plot, "Wolfman" is moving, unsentimental, and like the rest of these tales, wholly original.

Chabon is a master of the lively and unexpected description, his prose studded with images that split these mostly conventionally themed stories wide open. Consider his burly Quebecois carpenter, who has "a face that looked as if it had been carved with a pneumatic drill by a tiny workman dangling from the sheer granite cliff of Olivier's forehead." Or the "local drunks" of a Chubb Island bar, "a close-knit population, involved in an ongoing collective enterprise: the building, over several generations, of a basilica of failure, on whose crowded friezes they figured in vivid depictions of bankruptcy, drug rehabilitation, softball, and arrest." Or, the narrator of "Mrs. Box" and his failed marriage: "...very soon they had been forced to confront the failure of an expedition for which they had set out remarkably ill-equipped, like a couple of trans-Arctic travelers who through lack of preparation find themselves stranded and are forced to eat their dogs." Werewolves in Their Youth is worth reading for such moments alone. When Chabon uses them to illuminate our darkest impulses and fears, the result is often revelatory. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Applying his ironic talents to even darker material than in previous outings, Chabon has produced a winning collection of nine stories. Failed marriages haunt almost all the protagonists; personal disasters, depressive malaise and sexual violence are recurring themes. In "House Hunting," a realtor is more intent on stealing objects from a house than on showing it to his clients, a troubled young couple. His bizarre incompetence increases the tension between them, finally driving them into one another's arms. A young man flees town in "Mrs. Box," hoping to leave the twin disasters of his marriage and his business behind. He stops to visit his wife's senile grandmother and suddenly resolves to rob her of her jewelry, only to find a half-measure of redemption when his plan misfires. In the title story, Paul is the only one on the school playground who can call Timothy back from his werewolf fantasy, but Paul, who is already taunted for smelling weird, can't risk being associated too closely with his strange pal. As a result, Timothy attacks a fellow student and is reassigned to a "Special School." The closing tale, "In the Black Mill," presented as a story by August Van Zorn, a writer Chabon invented in Wonder Boys, is a brilliant riff on pulp horror tales featuring an archeologist who unearths the terrifying secrets of a small town. Here, Chabon is as witty as ever while dispensing with the glibness that sometimes marred his earlier work. His characters, even whey they are silly and flawed, come across as sympathetic, three-dimensional human beings. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (January 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312254385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312254384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #748,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland.

He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. You can visit Michael online at www.michaelchabon.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter M. Wallace on April 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In each of these nine stories, Chabon--particularly noted for his stylistic accomplishments--manages to flesh out a variety of characters in only a few pages, and sometimes in a few words. His sentences frequently seem to reach perfection, each word fitting precisely with a satisfying snap like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle, without the disappointing sting of over-cleverness.
As I read each wholly original story, I couldn't help but respond frequently with a knowing smile and the warm realization of recognition. I've smelled that smell and heard that sound ("There was a stink of chlorine from the waterfall in the atrium where the chimes of the elevators echoed all night with a sound like a dental instrument hitting a cold tile floor"). I've seen that place, even though I've never been there ("Plunkettsburg was at first glance unprepossessing--a low, rusting little city, with tarnished onion domes and huddled houses, drab as an armful of dead leaves strewn along the ground"). I've felt that feeling ("The next day I lay in bed, aching, sore, and suffering from that peculiar brand of spiritual depression born largely of suppressed fear"). And I most assuredly know that person ("Oriole was a big, broad-backed woman, ample and plain and quadrangular as the state of Iowa itself. Hugging her, Eddie felt comforted, as by the charitable gaze of a cow"). Each page proffers several such stylistic gems, which serve to draw you into the story without putting you off with their brilliance.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Michael Chabon is mostly known for his novels (Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), but I think his short stories are little gems. The opening sentence of the title story alone is wonderful. His writing sparkles with characters, settings, detail, and vivid turns of phrase. The final story, a Gothic tale written in the style of an author-character in The Wonder Boys, was perfectly done. A perfect book to keep in the car or briefcase for reading while you wait--but you may not be able to stop reading when it's time to go!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Silcox on August 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the better of Chabon's two short story collections. There isn't a lot of thematic variation here - all of these stories except for the very last one are about the muddles and unpredictabilities attendant upon married life, and reading them quickly one after the other can be a bit of a downer for this reason. But Chabon has an incredible gift with language, and although a lot of his characters are losers or muddleheaded or the victims of terrible decisions, his prose makes the world around them seem so rich and pregnant with possibilities that it's difficult to find any of the yarns here too depressing. The only time he misfires is in one story that's set entirely in a neighborhood bar - Chabon clearly doesn't frequent such places, and his attempt to catch the atmosphere in one is condescending and a little cliched.
The last story, "In The Black Mill," was a special treat for me. I'm a big fan of gothic horror and this is a wonderful pastiche of M.R. James with maybe a touch of Poe. One hopes that the author never gets so soaked up in Northeastern literary culture that he begins to think that this sort of genre exercise is beneath his dignity.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
One way I judge the strength of a story is to ask myself whether it would ever be anthologized and maybe studied in future literature classes. I don't think any of these stories will ever be anthologized in a collection of say, "Best Short Stories of the End of the 20th Century." What's good about these stories is Chabon's gift of observation. It's been a couple of weeks since I read this book, and I still think of some of the images it contains. He's very good at picking out the salient detail and describing it in a way that gives it a resonance beyond mere description. Here's a boy with a box of laboratory supplies belonging to his banished father: "I knelt down and wrapped my arms around the carton and lowered my face into it and inhaled a clean, rubbery smell like that of a new Band Aid." Here's a six-foot-eight athlete- turned- tycoon in a business suit: "He wore silver aviator eyeglasses and a custom-tailored suit, metallic gray, so large and oddly proportioned that it was nearly unrecognizable as an article of human clothing and appeared rather to have been designed to straiten an obstreperous circus elephant or to keep the dust off some big, delicate piece of medical imaging technology." I think that's good stuff. I just wish I had been able to become involved in the stories, or maybe have identified with one of the characters once in a while. Most of the characters are people who are unconnected to their surroundings. Parents have failed their children, children have failed their parents, ex-spouses want they-don't-know-what from each other. The book is populated almost exclusively by people who are resigned to failure. As a result, there's a certain smug undertone to all the stories that I found off-putting. I did not find any of the stories very emotionally involving.Read more ›
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