I’ve become convinced that Michael Chabon is our greatest contemporary American author at the moment. It was his outstanding novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay that planted such a seed in my mind, but it is his novel, Wonder Boys, that cements such a notion.
Wonder Boys is about a nearly over the hill author who’s been stuck on his novel of the same name for seven years. It’s become a behemoth of a novel, with no end in sight. His marriage is falling apart, just as several of his other’s did, and he is a habitual substance abuser. To make matters worse, the woman he’s having an affair with, who also happens to be his boss, more or less, at the college he teaches at has just alerted him that she’s pregnant.
Oh, but there’s so much more to talk about with this novel! His homosexual editor has come to town, demanding a finish to the epic novel, while an alienated student of his named James Leer has proven that he just may be the next big thing in the world of authors, if he doesn’t kill himself first.
As heavy as this sounds, this book actually has many, many funny moments.
This is the magic of Michael Chabon. When I read his works, I’m not conscience of reading, instead, it’s as though I’m peeking in on people’s lives as they actually unravel. Chabon is the master of blending plot with characterization, something that is much harder to do than it sounds.
Will our protagonist, Grady Tripp, finish his novel? Will he mend his marriage while somehow doing the right thing about his pregnant mistress? Will he ever kick his drug habits? Will he appease his editor and save both their careers? Will he nurture the student he doesn’t think much of at first, James Leer, into the next great American author? Well, there’s only one way to know, so I have to ask you to read the novel. But, let me ask you this question: What would the answer be to those questions in real life?