The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

( 33 )

Overview

The acclaimed New York Times bestseller.

Author Biography: Michael Chabon was born in Washington, D.C. His first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburg, was a national bestseller and was compared by critics to the besr of Fitzgerald and Salnger. Upon publication of his second novel, Wonder Boys, he was hailed by The Washington Post Book World as "the young star of American letters." His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and in Gentlemen's Quarterly. He lives in San ...

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Overview

The acclaimed New York Times bestseller.

Author Biography: Michael Chabon was born in Washington, D.C. His first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburg, was a national bestseller and was compared by critics to the besr of Fitzgerald and Salnger. Upon publication of his second novel, Wonder Boys, he was hailed by The Washington Post Book World as "the young star of American letters." His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and in Gentlemen's Quarterly. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.

"Hard as it is to write about youth when you're young, Chabon has done it brilliantly."--Cosmopolitan

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First-novelist Chabon, with ``distinctive vision'' and ``an elegiac, graceful style,'' spins a story about alienated youth that, while serving up some familiar details of sex, alcohol and drugs, ``fully engages the reader in the lives of an appealing cast of characters,'' said PW . (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060790592
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/5/2005
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 216,058
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.24 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Summerland (a novel for children), The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and Gentlemen of the Road, as well as the short story collections A Model World and Werewolves in Their Youth and the essay collections Maps and Legends and Manhood for Amateurs. He is the chairman of the board of the MacDowell Colony. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

Biography

In 1987, at 24, Michael Chabon was living a graduate student's dream. His masters thesis for the writing program at UC Irvine, a novel called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was not only published -- it was published to the tune of a $155,000 advance, a six-figure first printing, a movie deal, and a place on the bestseller lists. Mysteries, a coming-of-age story about a man caught between romances with a man on one side, a woman on the other, and the shadow of his gangster father over it all, drew readers with its elegant prose and an irresistibly cool character, Art Bechstein, racing through a long, hot summer.

Following this auspicious debut, Chabon penned a follow-up short story collection, then hit a serious snag. After five years of fits and starts, he abandoned a troublesome work in progress and began work on another novel, a wry, smart book about, natch, an author hoplessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel! With 1995's Wonder Boys and its successful film adaptation by Curtis Hanson, Chabon found both critical praise and a wider audience.

In the year 2000, Chabon rose to the challenge of attempting something on a more epic scale. That something was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the story of two young, Jewish comic book artists in the 1940s. Like Chabon's other books, it explored a relationship between two men and dealt with their maturation. But unlike his other books, the novel was grander in scope and theme, blending the world of comic books, the impact of World War II, and the lives of his characters. It won a Pulitzer, and secured Chabon's place as an American talent unafraid to paint broad landscapes with minute detail and aching emotion.

Chabon's ability to capture modern angst in funny, intelligently plotted stories has earned him comparisons to everyone from Fitzgerald to DeLillo, but he has fearlessly wandered outside the conventions of the novel to write screenplays, children's books, comics, and pulp adventures. Clearly, Michael Chabon views his highly praised talent as a story that hasn't yet reached its climax.

Good To Know

Chabon usually writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

He has a side interest in television writing, having written a pilot for CBS (House of Gold) that did not get picked up, and a second one for TNT.

Chabon also has an interest in screenwriting; he was attached to X-Men but dropped from the project when director Bryan Singer signed on. Now he is adapting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the big screen.

After slaving for five years on a book called Fountain City (parts of which can be read on his web site), Chabon finally decided it was not going to jell and abandoned it. At a low point, he switched gears and began Wonder Boys, the story (of course) of an author hopelessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel.

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    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 24, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
A Novel

Chapter One

Elevator Going Up

At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We'd just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will—a year I'd spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frankness and a fury that were not at all like him. But Claire had moved out the month before. Neither my father nor I knew what to do with our new freedom.

"I saw Lenny Stem this morning," he said. "He asked after you. You remember your Uncle Lenny."

"Sure," I said, and I thought for a second about Uncle Lenny, juggling three sandwich halves in the back room of his five-and-dime in the Hill District a million years ago.

I was nervous and drank more than I ate; my father carefully dispatched his steak. Then he asked me what my plans were for the summer, and in the flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more or less: It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand, story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 rpm, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spineof a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink. I said, I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray."

My father told me that I was overwrought and that Claire had had an unfortunate influence on my speech, but something in his face said that he understood. That night he flew back to Washington, and the next day, for the first time in years, I looked in the newspaper for some lurid record of the effect of his visit, but of course there was none. He wasn't that kind of gangster.

Claire had moved out on the thirtieth of April, taking with her all of the Joni Mitchell and the complete soundtrack recording of the dialogue from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, a four-record set, which she knew by heart. At some point toward the sexless and conversationless finale of Art and Claire, I had informed her that my father said she suffered from dementia praecox. My father's influence upon me was strong, and I believed this. I later told people that I had lived with a crazy woman, and also that I had had enough of Romeo and Juliet.

The last term in my last year of college sputtered out in a week-long fusillade of examinations and sentimental alcohol conferences with professors whom I knew I would not really miss, even as I shook their hands and bought them beers. There was, however, a last paper on Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess, for which I realized I would have to make one exasperating last visit to the library, the dead core of my education, the white, silent kernel of every empty Sunday I had spent trying to ravish the faint charms of the study of economics, my sad and cynical major.

So one day at the beginning of June I came around the concrete comer that gave way to the marbleized steps of the library. Walking the length of brown ground-floor windows, I looked into them, at the reflection of my walk, my loafers, my mess of hair. Then I felt guilty, because at our lunch my father, the amateur psychologist, had called me a "devout narcissist" and had said he worried that I might be "doomed to terminal adolescence." I looked away.

There were very few students using the building this late in the term, which was officially over. A few pink-eyed and unshaven pages loitered behind the big checkout counter, staring out at the brown sun through the huge tinted windows. I clicked loudly in my loafers across the tile floor. As I called for the elevator to the Freud section, a girl looked up. She was in a window; there was an aqua ribbon in her hair. The window was a kind of grille, as in a bank, at the far end of the corridor in which I stood waiting for the elevator, and the girl in the window held a book in one hand and a thin strip of wire in the other. We looked at each other for perhaps three seconds, then I turned back to face the suddenly illuminated red Up arrow, the muscles in my neck warming and tightening. As I stepped into the car...

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
A Novel
. Copyright © by Michael Chabon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 30, 2011

    A Missed Attempt.

    I initially bought Chabon's book based on the raving reviews that compared this work to that of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." And, boy, was I disappointed with the actual product.

    I will not go as far as to say that Chabon's work was a complete failure: this writer is very talented at constructing creative similes and appears to have a great deal of fun coming up with clever ways to describe commonplace situations, emotions, and places.

    The execution of the storyline and character depth, however, are poor. This book is not similar to Salinger's and Fitzgerald's works because it is expertly constructed or engaging in the least. In fact, the only reason why this book can be compared to such classics is because Chabon seems to have taken elements of each of these stories (while infusing a little bit of The Godfather as well as some exploration of homosexuality) and mashed them together in a blatantly obvious manner. Throughout the entirety of this book, I felt assaulted by what seem to be Chabon's failed and superficial attempts to make this work a masterpiece. Chabon tries too hard with this work, so hard in fact, that he loses all of the originality and endearment that had the potential of achieving.

    To avoid a long and repetitive rant, I will end here by saying that there are MANY much better books to devote your time to than this one. Please, don't waste your time on "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" -- it is an attempt, but nothing more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Even though the author meant Pittsburgh to be a character, the author fails miserably to show the reader any of Pittsburgh's mysteries. I suggest you don't waste your time with this book.

    The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

    This is the second time I've read this book. I wonder now why I bothered. It is remarkable and it astonishes me every time, how many published authors can't write.

    Meet Art Bechstein, son of a prominent DC gangster who is torn between the mysterious Phlox Lombardi and Arthur Lecomte. Even though this is a coming of age story, the love triangle is stupid and boring. By placing characters without any kind of fictional value, almost like they were just the names written in ink, without any kind of background, almost erratic behavior, Michael Chabon tries to paint «summer of love» and fails miserably.

    Oh, we have everything here that modern man (and women) want, for instance, struggle for identity, spitting on upper-class, homosexual intercourse, mysterious yet scarred educated young people, who, regardless of their education do nothing at all. But what we lack is that line that will hold the story together, so that we have no that horrid feeling that author has just stamped some scenes on the paper and published it, hoping that just the sight of his name will sell the book. What we lack here is competence in narration. How would you feel like if someone bragged about something for a whole day and actually said two or three sentences that were logically or even semantically connected?

    Even though the author meant Pittsburgh to be a character, the author fails miserably to show the reader any of Pittsburgh's mysteries. I suggest you don't waste your time with this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Adventure

    The first book of Michael Chabon that I read was "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." Based upon my thorough enjoyment of that book I read "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" and was hooked on the author. The characters were very believable and his style of being very descriptive makes you feel as if you are riding along in the car with him. I was sorry to have finished the book so I picked up "Wonder Boys" and enjoyed that just as much. Now I am going to tackle "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." I believe Michael Chabon has become my new favorite author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    I love Michael Chabon

    This was his thesis for college and the prof thought it might be accepted by a publisher. It was and with good reason! Thoroughly enjoyable!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    A reviewer

    When Art Bechstein was finally able to leave Washington, D.C., and his mob father behind, he ran to Pittsburgh to attend school. His last summer in the sweltering city proved to be an exciting and intriguing adventure. The handsome and personable Arthur Lecomte introduces Art to women, sex and a new way of life, but with the arrival of Arthur¿s mysterious friend, Cleveland, Art must face his father and the ¿family¿ he tried to forget. Michael Chabon¿s debut novel, set in the 80s, is a coming-of-age tale of excess, sex and friendship. It paints a different side of the crumbling steel city, a side of grit and grime, where the unexpected is lurking behind every corner. Chabon¿s writing is colorful and imaginative, but the story lacks real excitement. It is slow to take off and quickly fizzles. It is a story that is always on the edge of breaking through, but never pushes the reader over the ledge. ¿Mysteries¿ is an easy read that doesn¿t force the reader to think too much. In short, if you don¿t want a tough plot that twists and turns like a rollercoaster, then this book is it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    Michael Chabon was truly at his best early in his career.

    Michael Chabon was truly at his best early in his career.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2007

    Wonderful First Novel!

    This is one of those titles I kept putting off reading, but now, having read it, I do not know why I procrastinated so long, especially since the film 'Wonder Boys,' which was based on Chabon's second novel, has been one of my favorite movies and was shot at Shady Side Academy (where my two children matriculated) and at Carnegie Mellon (where my daughter has attended), with myself having attended Pitt as a graduate student for a number of years. So, in this way, I could easily identify with many of the locales in 'Mysteries,' especially Hillman Library, Squirrel Hill, and Forbes Ave. What I especially enjoyed, however, is Chabon's writing style: he has a command of creative language which to me is nearly as distinctive as that of a Vonnegut or an Updike. Many of his novel's characters, moreover, are as memorable as those of other great writers. Cleveland, for instance, reminded me of Kerouac's Dean Moriarty, while Art, Chabon's central character/narrator, brought to mind Salinger's Holden Caulfield and Charles Webb's Ben Braddock, a character who, like Art, in the process of ascertaining his post-graduation career route, discovers important facts about himself and others through a variety of sexual, interpersonal, and familial experiences. Absorbing, entertaining, and easy to relate to, I would recommend putting 'Mysteries' at or near the top of your reading list.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2006

    Great Read

    Simply put, I adored this book. It is unusual, and it really makes one think. I thought it quite mature for a first novel and always admire Chabon's use of words. But I think the reason I loved this book the most was the quote 'it is easier to love some one than to have friendship.' It was a concept I have not thought of, and something that I thought quite true. I highly recommend and hope you will give this unusual story a chance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2006

    Awesome first novel

    Fascinating characters, prose that makes you think. When will this be turned into a movie? Michael Locker MD

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    A strong debut

    Before picking up 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,' I had already devoured Michael Chabon's extraordinary 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,' as well as 'Summerland' and 'The Final Solution,' so I am no stranger to the writer's linguistic ostentation. I found 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' a startlingly thorough first novel, with rich, sparkling characterizations and a clean, dry first-person narration. As with many first novels, it clearly represents a writer trying to be 'a writer,' especially with its diagrammatic visuals of characters smoking cigarettes, and the occasional simile invoking obscure authors or filmmakers. But on the whole, Chabon's ruthlessly poetic prose, exquisitely constructed sentences, and wry sense of humor pervade 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,' and after the final page it's abundantly clear why after only three novels, Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2005

    A wonderfully strong first novel

    Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a fantastic read that deals with the indecision of growing up, and coming out in society today. Possibly the greatest aspect is that it manages to tell a story about the main character, Art, without coming off as just another painfully autiobiographical coming of age story, or painfully over the top gay fiction. This story helped to put Chabon's name out there, and upon reading it, it becomes easy to see why. Easily worth one read through, if not more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2004

    Mysteries of Pittsburgh

    Michael Chabon¿s novel ¿The Mysteries of Pittsburgh¿, describes the process of growing up. The main character, Art Bechstein, reflects his last summer. He tells about new sexual experiences, new friends and his difficult relationship with his father. The story contains a lot of interesting and unforeseeable twists, which raise the tension. It is although a lot of fun to read, because of the funny, bizarre and shocking passages, which appear frequently. But this novel is not only funny; it is although very serious. The reader is confronted with Art¿s insecurity, his fears and worries and his sexual experiences. Chabon involves the reader into a story full of crime, homosexual affairs and excessive parental care. It is a well written book, which is easy to understand. There are a lot of points in the plot, which are very good to discuss. So I think this book is very interesting for school, because it is very modern and it fits better into our time than all the older, classic school books. What some people may find offensive in the book, are the very detailed descriptions of Art¿s sexual contacts with Arthur. Michael Chabon uses sometimes a lot of provoking details to describe the sex between two men, but on the other hand all these details make ¿The Mysteries of Pittsburgh¿ unique and separate the book from all the other school books. Finally I would say that ¿The Mysteries of Pittsburgh¿ is a very modern, sensitive, but also shocking and provoking book, which is definitely worth to be read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2004

    mysteries

    I read the book in school, so I did not have any information about it and so I hab no expectations. By now I have to say that I do not like this book. And I dislike it for several reasons: Art is homosexual. I do not have any prejudices towards homosexual people, but when it comes to descriptions of homosexual intercourse fun is over. That also makes it hard for me to identify with the main character Art Bechstein. Another reason for my dislike is the fact that it is very difficult to out why some characters, including the main character, act the way they act. Art himself does not even know why he does certain things. He is unsure and confused. This unsureness makes me feel like he is just an idiot running through the world without even thinking! It seems like he is moving in circles, neither development, nor sense in his behaviour. Fortunately Art gives an explanation in the end of the book. But this is more or less satisfying. Not even in the end he is sure if he has ever loved Phlox. Furthermore the author assumes a lot of knowledge about films, film stars, poems and so on. This often has a confusing effect on me. Perhaps I am too young to understand some of these used symbols. But the book is somehow interesting and exciting. The storyline beside Art's sexuality is more interesting and more understandable. Overall I cannot say that I like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2004

    'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' by Michael Chabon

    The book 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' by Michael Chabon is about Art Bechstein who tells his personal experiences and feelings during one summer. Influenced by Arthur Lecombte, his gay friend, Phlox, the girl he once loved, Cleveland, his real friend, and at last his dad he became a different boy as he was before. Art is grown-up. This content is very interesting because everyone of us has to get an adult like Art. The process is necessary for everyone´s life because everyone has to become independent and self-confident. To learn how to make a decision is important, too. All these facts Art learned during this one summer but it wasn´t easy like it sounds. Art got in contact with illegal businesses, alcohol, wasting time by doing unimportant things and at last with homosexuality. He was so confused and didn´t know what to do but then he found the right way. When he lost all his summer-friends and at last broke up the contact with his dad Art realizes that he´s grown up and needs nobody who influences him. During reading the book it´s easy to identify with Art. Therefore I recommend 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' to everyone who wants to become independent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2004

    Into the Depths

    I own 8 copies of this book, including two signed. Granted, it has all the failings of a first novel--but it reached into the depths of these characters, and I found myself there. This book kept me going when I was a novice in a monastery, because it connected me to a world where people struggle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2003

    How about 'no'?

    I can't believe all the good press this book gets. It's disappointing, to say the least. The main character is a pansy and all of the characters are developed poorly. 'Coming of age'? Isn't this Art guy supposed to be out of college now? Shouldn't he already be 'grown up'? Isn't that what the whole college experience is about? A waste of money if you ask me; the only semi-developed character in the book dies clutching a dollie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    Linsey

    Art is the son of a wise Jewish gangster. Recently graduating from college, he is ready to begin his personal journey to find his identity, his true self. Chabon has created a very interesting and diverse cast. The various situations and environments were portrayed very realistically. I felt, at times, Chabon dragged out the character Art and some of his dilemmas so far and dramatic that it became annoying at some points. Overall, this novel is a light read and interesting, and at times, thought provoking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2002

    Clueless

    He seemed to have trouble writing credible characters. His gay character was especially two dimensional. I won't be buying any more of his books again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2002

    WOW!

    A different take on relationship and life. A great writer with uniquw ideas and ways of expressing them. This one can be read more than once!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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