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Wonder Boys: A Novel Paperback – April 29, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Mixing comic?even slapstick?events with the serious theme of bright promise gone awry, Chabon has produced an impeccably constructed novel that sparkles with inventiveness and wit neatly permeated with rue. The once-promising eponymous "wonder boys" are Grady Tripp and Terry Crabtree, friends since college, where they both determined to make their mark in literature. Now they are self-destructive adults whose rare meetings occasion an eruption of zany events. Narrator Grady, a professor/novelist whose unfinished work-in-progress, Wonder Boys, stands at 2000-plus endlessly revised pages, has destroyed three marriages through compulsive philandering and a marijuana habit. Terry is a devil-may-care, sexually predatory editor who has patiently endured Grady's writing block but who tells Grady, when he arrives at the annual literary conference at Grady's small Pittsburgh college, that he expects to be fired momentarily from his job. Grady and Terry, later joined by the campus's newest potential "wonder boy," a talented but mendacious student named James Leer, set in motion a series of darkly funny misadventures. Farcical scenes arise credibly out of multiplying contretemps, culminating in a stoned Grady's wild ride in a stolen car in whose trunk rest a tuba and the corpses of a blind dog and a boa constrictor. All of this affords Chabon a solid platform for some freewheeling satire about the yearnings, delusions and foibles of writers and other folk. Throughout, his elegant prose, breathtaking imagery and wickedly on-target dialogue precisely illuminate his characters' gentle absurdities. The pace of this vastly entertaining novel never abates for a second, as we watch Grady slide inexorably into emotional and professional chaos. Above all, though, this is a feast for lovers of writing and books, with the author's fierce understanding of what Grady calls "the midnight disease," the irresistible, destructive urge of a writer to experience his characters' fates. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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 the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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Here is what I liked about the novel: the great dialogue and imagery of Pittsburg, the tie-in between Tripp and the first writer he ever met, Crabtree and the way homosexuality was handled. The wonderful way Tripp, Crabtree, and Leer made up stories about strangers! I seriously thought only my friends, family, and me did that. I, like Tripp, will tell a total stranger a boldfaced lie just to see the reaction on his/her face and if I can pull it off. It must be a mark of fiction writers.
Here is what did not work for me: the lead protagonist, Grady Tripp (a grating trip-funny uh?)is not likeable, but that would not have been a problem if the author had explained why Tripp was such an unlikeable fellow. Why was Trip so immature? I actually did not care enough about him to want to know why he was an immature middle-aged jerk. That is a big problem for Chabon, because it is told in first person point of view, so all the reader has is Tripp's view of the story. The novel would have worked better with a third person point of view. If the novel wanted to get really interesting, telling it from Crabtree, Leer, or Hannahs' narration would have given more nuance and texture. Tripp's first person narration was just too self-indulgent and uninspired.
There were some questionable plot points too. Oh God, did Tripp have to be a pothead that went to Berkeley? That is so beyond cliched. There are so many other colleges he could have attended, but of course that would have been too original. The whole episode of Tripp's Jewish/Korean wife and in-laws was not needed. Get it? Korean kids raised as Jews-funny huh? I felt that whole section and the pet snake were just filler pages that gave nothing. Also, how did Tripp and Sara, his married mistress, know Tripp was the father of her kid? Was she not sleeping with her husband, Walter,as well as Tripp? Tripp never asks her if the kid is his, but I sure would have. They had been carrying on an affair for five years and Tripp makes it known he still desires his estranged wife Emily, so obviously these two were still sleeping with their respective spouses. That was so illogical to me that I had to reread it to see if I missed something. Of course Walter is Tripp's boss, because that is just the way these books write themselves.
I wanted to give this book four stars, because I do like the way Chabon writes, yet had to settle on three. This book had a lot of potential, but the stoned Berkeley educated writer who never grows up is not new. To work with cliches of this magnitude, the writer has to approach the story with some originality and Chabon fails this and just trots out the tripe. As was stated in a previous review, it does read like a novel from a writers' workshop. A novel that needed a kind, but honest critique.
Most recent customer reviews
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