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Wonder Boys: A Novel Paperback – December 15, 1995

4.0 out of 5 stars 322 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chabon's long-awaited follow-up to The Mysteries of Pittsburgh concerns the antics of a self-destructive middle-aged novelist who is suffering from a sustained case of writer's block.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Chabon himself is something of a wonder boy; his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, presided on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 12 weeks. Here, his eponymous heroes are Grady, an aging author attempting to write his chef-d'oeuvre, and his randy editor, Tripp.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 2nd edition (December 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312140940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312140946
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,650,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I don't quite understand many of the negative reviewshere. People describe his writing as adolescent or reminescent of a story from a writer's workshop. I was an English major in college and realize that to go after one's dreams in the literary field is not easy, simply because of the quirky characters you get involved with. Chabon is not trying to mold profound statements even close to the same league as Chekov or even Updike, but otherwise he works in the same atmosphere as early Philip Roth. He simply describes characters so easily and with such fruition (without overembellishing them) that we are hooked. "The Wonder Boys" is truly about the the emotional atmosphere of the literary world. Unlike medical or law school - writer's are encouraged to stay young - Grady's problem is that he's forty years old, holding on to youth is killing him. The Wonder Boys is not a light a read as I've heard many label it so. It's truly about that gray line between youth and maturity - and within that line resides hundreds of English majors. I loved it, read and enjoy - definitely not a book for anyone who thinks Nabakov is the beginning and end of the artistic plane.
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By Kev on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon is an amazing roller coaster tale of a Professor Grady Tripp weekend. The novel is both entertaining and exhilarating yet still retains that Chabon charm that The Mysteries of Pittsburgh left me with. Chabon has a real knack for writing, he creates characters who are both quirky yet somewhat identifiable. Take Grady, a forty something, chronic head, college professor, and one time wonder boy... I felt myself feeling the man's pain. Suddenly I was getting a divorce, losing my job and impregnating my lover. I especially liked James Leer the college student, what a strange little bird! The book is a page-turner that's full of insight. Some may say it is quick read, yet I took my time to savor.
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By A Customer on August 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is unfortunate to discover a fine novel after seeing it as a fine film. I did not know about Michael Chabon until after seeing Curtis Hanson's film adaptation of Wonder Boys (robbed of a Best Picture nomination), and did not read Wonder Boys until much later, coming across several other Chabon works first. That said, it is hard to know how I would have reacted to Wonder Boys if I did not know the story in advance. Unlike the broader Kavalier and Clay, which is in all a better book, Chabon does not slip into occasional caricature here. Yes, the "doped-up novelist with writer's block" and the "spooky, haunted young genius" are archetypes, but Chabon's Grady Tripp and James Leer come off as original inventions due to Chabon's skill with subtlety. While revealing characters through a road trip is hackneyed, it comes off better in the novel than on the screen. Chabon's uniqueness lies in his combination of the mundane and the bizarre -- well-crafted characters wandering through a strange landscape. Wonder Boys is not the choice for a reader who wants just one Chabon experience -- Mysteries of Pittsburgh is odder and funnier, and Kavalier and Clay is bigger and better. But for a Chabon fan, Wonder Boys is an excellent diversion.
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Format: Paperback
After having read "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" (AAKC), I swore to myself that I would absolutely adore anything by Michael Chabon. Now, having finished "Wonder Boys", I realize to some degree, how unrealistic that notion was.
I'm not saying that this book is uninspiring or flat. No, not at all. The whole story, about a writer in crisis as he watches his marriage and career go asunder over a weekend of quirky, humorous events, makes for good and entertaining read. Chabon's writing is as masterful as ever, he still splashes the book with candid, deadpan quips that I thoroughly enjoy and am totally jealous of. There were parts I enjoyed to the brink of laughing out loud (usually, I'm a pretty silent reader) - e.g. the Beer Pong scene, with James being slowly acquainted to the universal joys of being drunk.
That said, I simply could not stop myself from wishing more depth to the story. More scenes, more sub-stories from the lives of each character, if you will. Stories spanning different time eras, different backgrounds and histories. You see, the ghost of Kavalier and Clay was lurking somewhere in my stubborn mind (something like the tuba!), unwilling to be exorcised! This is the first book I can honestly say that was spoilt from unrealistic expectations and I regret that. If you want to enjoy this book and you've read AAKC, don't compare the two books. Wonder Boys is essentially the story of one man over a stretch of a weekend, AAKC is more like an epic tale of at least three characters over 50 years. They're really quite different, each with its very own appeal.
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Format: 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.
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