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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

3.7 35
by Michael Chabon

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The enthralling debut from bestselling novelist Michael Chabon is a penetrating narrative of complex friendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young man’s sexual identity. Chabon masterfully renders the funny, tender, and captivating first-person narrative of Art Bechstein,whose confusion and heartache echo the tones of literary forebears like


The enthralling debut from bestselling novelist Michael Chabon is a penetrating narrative of complex friendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young man’s sexual identity. Chabon masterfully renders the funny, tender, and captivating first-person narrative of Art Bechstein,whose confusion and heartache echo the tones of literary forebears like The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield and The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh incontrovertibly established Chabon as a powerful force in contemporary fiction, even before his PulitzerPrize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay set the literary world spinning. An unforgettable story of coming of age in America, it is also an essential milestone in the movement of American fiction, from a novelist who has become one of the most important and enduring voices of this generation. 

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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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

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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.

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Moonglow and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, among many others. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.

Brief Biography

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

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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
TheNeonNarwhal More than 1 year ago
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.
sweetdog More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The problem with reading Michael Chabon is it is so good you do not want to stop but you do as you want desperately to stop the journey from ending. This is my 4th visit to Chabon-land and, as always, I enjoyed the trip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon was truly at his best early in his career.
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carlosmock More than 1 year ago
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.
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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!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fascinating characters, prose that makes you think. When will this be turned into a movie? Michael Locker MD