Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WONDER BOYS, Michael Chabon

Just finished reading this. It's book #10 for me.

I've *loved* two books by Chabon--THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, and THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION. I loved them so much that despite really not loving two others--GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD and THE FINAL SOLUTION--I decided to complete the entire Chabon ouevre as part of Fill-in-the-Gaps.

I'm left with not a whole lot to say about Wonder Boys. I'm not going to bother to do a full review over on thebookbook. There is no plot to speak of; it's about a lecherous pot-head middle-aged mid-Western writing professor with writer's block (blech to the premise) and offers a lot of moments of discomfort for those of us who work in publishing. But it's full of beautiful little Chabon-isms. So overall: meh. I didn't love it. But I didn't hate it. And here are some nuggets:
"Like most good first novels it possessed an imperturbable, mistaken confidence that all the shocking incidents and extremes of human behavior it dished up would strike new chords of outrage and amazement in the reader." (249)
(ouch. that one stings.)
"All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure." (326)
(gents, is it true?)
"It struck me that the chief obstacle to marital contentment was this perpetual gulf between the well-founded, commendable pessimism of women and the sheer dumb animal optimism of men, the latter a force more than any other responsible for the lamentable state of the world."
(applies to my parents, at least.)

Anyone else read it? Wanna chat?

10 comments:

Amanda said...

I"m a little ashamed to admit I've never read anything by Chabon before, though I did recently pick up the Yiddish Policemen's Union at a library sale...

thelittlefluffycat said...

What was odd about Wonder Boys was I felt the movie was actually more complete than the book--like it was filling in blanks.

It reminded me of something Dorothy L. Sayers said, about how a fan had approached and complimented her on some complex something she'd done. She took the compliment, despite being sure she'd never managed anything so esoteric, went home to reread -- and found out she had! She just hadn't been able to see it till someone told her it was there.

Lisa said...

I read it a while ago. Not his strongest work but I have a soft spot for the story because I LOVE the movie.

moonrat said...

Amanda--i LOVE YPU. i hope you do too! let me know.

little fluffy--i can see that happening to a lot of writers, by accident :) i'd better rent the movie.

JES said...

I've had exactly the same exposure to Chabon as you, pre-Wonder Boys, and pretty much the same response (well, not so much the secret-boyfriend thing)... but haven't read this one yet.

Does the Overall Meh translate to a recommendation, do you think? (It sounds as though if I'd read this one first, I'd never have made it to Kavalier & Clay and YPU, which would have been a rotten loss.)

moonrat said...

JES--ditto.

emeraldcite said...

I really liked wonder boys and thought it also made a great film. maybe i enjoyed it more being from pennyslvania and have a bit of nostalgia about creative writing and wacky college winters.

Jen A said...

I haven't read this one, but I love love love LOVED Kavalier and Clay, and I really enjoyed Summerland and The Final Solution as well (which is totally different, but I really liked it, maybe because I'm Sherlock Holmes-obssessed). I do intend to eventually read all of his other books because of how much I liked those three...

dlgarfinkle said...

One of the very few times that I thought the movie was better than the book. I thought the movie was great. The book seemed too slow-paced for me, though not bad.

I loved Kavalier and Clay and Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

I read that Chabon worked on a very long novel for years that he eventually gave up on. So I imagine the main character of Wonder Boys has some Chabon in him.

Alyssa said...

This was the first Chabon book I tried, and I didn't get through it (rare for me). I'm still planning to go back and give the others a chance.