Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

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?

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

Maps and Legends was both a real pleasure and incredibly insightful in a multitude of ways. 

This nonfiction book by Michael Chabon, author of Wonderboys and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, offers a variety of essays that will assuredly please all readers.

That’s not to say that all readers will love each and every one of the essays in this book, though.  However, I know there is something for everyone to appreciate and even learn from in Maps and Legends.

Chabon essentially covers four broad topics in this collection.  He expends great energy discussing trends and personalities in comic books, the art of writing, various aspects of literature, and his own diverse influences and personal background.

Since these are four topics that I’m very interested in as well, I loved almost every single essay. 

Chabon is such an interesting man.  The idea that a Pulitzer Prize-winning author takes the time to lament the death of Will Eisner, acknowledge the brilliance of Howard Chaykin, analyze McCarthy’s The Road, and reveal deeply personal secrets (some even real) from his own life all within one collection, it’s just a pure joy for someone like me to experience.

However, I think the most valuable thing I learned from Chabon in his book is that the term “genre” in literature is not a naughty word.  He analyzes the importance of genre, especially in relation to the short story, and disparages the fact that people’s snobbery towards genre is actively executing the short story.

Furthermore, Chabon is utterly transparent in the essays involving his life, so transparent he even reveals he has lied to us and could be lying at any given moment.  That sort of honesty about deception is a breath of fresh air.

If you’re a fan of comic books, the art of writing, or Michael Chabon himself, I really encourage you to give this book a try.  I think you’ll be pleased with what you read.