24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Wonder Boys: A Novel (Paperback)
Tripp is a 40-something university professor and novelist who is having trouble finishing his fourth book: he's seven years and over 2,000 pages into it and he's not even halfway done. His favorite pastimes are getting high, getting drunk, and cheating on his wife, all while battling (and losing) his reflex of running off on wild adventures at the drop of a hat. Terry Crabtree, Tripp's gay editor and old friend, is flamboyant, likes college age boys, and is even more irresponsible with drug and drink.
A satire on the literary life, Wonder Boys is an enjoyable if somewhat cumbersome read. Great characters, all of them on a quest for self-acceptance, but Chabon gets bogged down by his obvious affection for literary description, which, while startingly good, distracts from the action at hand and puts too much space between the character and the reader. The book reads like a series of run-on scenes, rather than a flowing novel, which is probably why it made for a good film.
The relationship between Tripp, the main character, and James, one of his students, is a focal point of the novel. Tripp inadvertedly helps James kill a dog, and then spends the weekend running around with it in his trunk, trying at various times to dispose of it. But the relationship is deeper than its lighthearted treatment. The two of them end up palling around together all weekend, getting drunk and stoned, and finding themselves in over the top situations, which includes scenes with Crabtree, Tripp's wife who has just left him, his wife's very Jewish family, Tripp's lover who is pregnant, a stolen jacket onced owned by Marilyn Monroe, a stolen car, a drag queen, and on and on.
At times I marveled at Chabon's prose and his penchant for description -- that he loves his characters and respects them for who they are is evident, that he can be simultaneously playful and serious, that he can write circles around a good many of today's writers is also true. However, while the book is light in spirit, it is often not light on the printed page, and you sometimes have a difficult time getting pulled into the hilarity and absurdity of the action.