Wonder Boys

( 34 )

Overview

A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood ...
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Overview

A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart. All those who love Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay will find the same elegant imagination, bold humor, and undeniable warmth at work in Wonder Boys.

“[A] wise, wildly funny story . . . Chabon is a flat-out wonderful writer– evocative and inventive, pointed and poignant.”
–Chicago Tribune

“Whether making us laugh or making us feel the breathtaking impermanence of things, Michael Chabon keeps us wide awake and reading.”
–All Things Considered

“Beguiling and wickedly smart . . . There is first-rate satirical farce in Chabon’s novel but essentially it is something rarer: satirical comedy.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

In his first novel since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Chabon presents a hilarious and heartbreaking work--the story of the friendship between the eponymous "wonder boys"--Grady, an aging writer who has lost his way, and Tripp, whose relentless debauchery is capsizing his career.

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  • Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys
    Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixing comic-even slapstick-events with the serious theme of bright promise gone awry, Chabon has produced an impeccably constructed novel that sparkles with inventiveness and wit neatly permeated with rue. The once-promising eponymous ``wonder boys'' are Grady Tripp and Terry Crabtree, friends since college, where they both determined to make their mark in literature. Now they are self-destructive adults whose rare meetings occasion an eruption of zany events. Narrator Grady, a professor/novelist whose unfinished work-in-progress, Wonder Boys, stands at 2000-plus endlessly revised pages, has destroyed three marriages through compulsive philandering and a marijuana habit. Terry is a devil-may-care, sexually predatory editor who has patiently endured Grady's writing block but who tells Grady, when he arrives at the annual literary conference at Grady's small Pittsburgh college, that he expects to be fired momentarily from his job. Grady and Terry, later joined by the campus's newest potential ``wonder boy,'' a talented but mendacious student named James Leer, set in motion a series of darkly funny misadventures. Farcical scenes arise credibly out of multiplying contretemps, culminating in a stoned Grady's wild ride in a stolen car in whose trunk rest a tuba and the corpses of a blind dog and a boa constrictor. All of this affords Chabon a solid platform for some freewheeling satire about the yearnings, delusions and foibles of writers and other folk. Throughout, his elegant prose, breathtaking imagery and wickedly on-target dialogue precisely illuminate his characters' gentle absurdities. The pace of this vastly entertaining novel never abates for a second, as we watch Grady slide inexorably into emotional and professional chaos. Above all, though, this is a feast for lovers of writing and books, with the author's fierce understanding of what Grady calls ``the midnight disease,'' the irresistible, destructive urge of a writer to experience his characters' fates. Author tour. Mar.
Library Journal
Chabon himself is something of a wonder boy; his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, presided on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 12 weeks. Here, his eponymous heroes are Grady, an aging author attempting to write his chef-d'oeuvre, and his randy editor, Tripp.
Donna Seaman
This is a genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud novel, a sort of "Fear and Loathing in Academia" if you will, but infused with tenderness and a bracing skepticism about our worship of literature. Chabon is known for his glisteningly precise and graceful prose, but he is also blessed with a wickedly imaginative and energetic sense of humor. His second novel takes place during the course of one extraordinarily hectic weekend during which his crazy hero, Professor Grady Tripp, manages to ruin two marriages, cause the death of a boa constrictor and a dog, save a student's life, attend a disastrous seder and a chaotic writers' conference, and lose the only copy of his manuscript. Now don't groan when I tell you that "Wonder Boys" is also the title of the novel Tripp has wasted seven years of his disorderly life on, because this is not your typical, bloodless novel-within-a-novel. It is, instead, a simultaneously hilarious and insightful tale about the Faustian bargains writers make, the fissures the act of writing rends in the wall between fact and fantasy, and, for good measure, the basic absurdity of human endeavors. It's also an uproarious portrait of the artist as self-indulgent fool. Tripp's "wonder boys" are, like Chabon, young writers who achieve instant success. The trick, then, is to maintain it. Whereas his endearingly addled and irresistible hero fails, Chabon, for all his musing on the dark side of the writer's life, is succeeding brilliantly.
Richard Eder
A beguiling and wickedly smart novel….There is first—rate satirical farce in Chabon's novel but essentially it is something rarer: satirical comedy.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Jonathan Yardley
The young star of American letters…a writer not only of rare skill and wit but a self—evident and immensely appealing generosity.
The Washington Post Book World Review
Shelby Hearon
[A] wise, wildly funny story…Chabon is a flat—out wonderful writer—evocative and inventive, pointed and poignant.
Chicago Tribune
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812979213
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 249,566
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon is the author of Wonder Boys, which won universal critical acclaim and was made into a feature film starring Michael Douglas. Entertainment Weekly included his latest, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, on its list of the best books of 2000. Both are available from Brilliance Audio. He received his B.A. from The University of Pittsburgh and his M.F.A. from the University of California at Irvine. He lives with his wife and two children in California.

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

Grady Tripp is a middle-aged philandereer with a penchant for pot and failed marriages, who is unable to complete the long-awaited follow-up to his award-winning novel. HIs brilliant student James Leer is a troubled young writer obsessed with Hollywood suicides and prone to fabrication and petty thievery. In their odyssey through the streets of Pittsburgh, Grady andJames are joined by Grady's pregnant mistress, his hilariously bizarre editor and an achingly beautiful student lodger. The result is a wildly comic, poignantly movig and ultimately profound search for past promisess, future fame and a purpose to Grady's life.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2001

    Wonder Boys Grow Up

    'Wonder Boys' is about Grady Tripp, a middle-age English professor and novelist who should have grown up long ago. I like the book because I can relate to Grady Tripp's plight. He needs to ditch the drugs and take responsibility for himself. As always, the book is better than the movie. All we see in the movie version of 'Wonder Boys' is an aging writer smoking dope for seemingly no reason at all. But in the book, readers explore the dank depths of Grady Tripp's depraved existence. The pot becomes not the focus of the story, but a symptom of Grady Tripp's larger problem-- a youth slipping quickly away. If you have $20 to spend, this could be a good way to do it. Great for weed heads trying to quit, out-of-work writers and anyone going through a mid-life crisis.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2000

    Something For Everyone

    Michael Chabon presents a story that all people can enjoy. The aging hipsters of American society will enjoy the character of Grady Tripp, the pot-smoking hack writer who is constantly trying to figure out how his life ended up the way it did, swirling quickly down the toilet. The bitter disaffectionate youth will enjoy the struggles of James Leer, a minor kleptomaniac and aspiring writer, and the cynical citizens of American's population will enjoy Terry Crabtree, who realizes that romatic love is a joke and that happiness is related to job standing. The Wonder Boys has as many fascinating characters as America has fascinating people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2013

    Interesting

    Well written and doesn't have a total 'downer' ending like so many critically well received books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Rich and engaging. Chabon can weave a story while offering insi

    Rich and engaging. Chabon can weave a story while offering insightful paragraphs that often need to be savored twice.

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  • Posted December 16, 2012

    On the surface, Grady Tripp is probably one of the most loathsom

    On the surface, Grady Tripp is probably one of the most loathsome individuals I have ever read about in literature—he’s spent seven years on a 2,611 page monstrosity that has gone absolutely nowhere and like his life meandered everywhere, he’s come to the dissolution of his third marriage, he’s carried on an affair for about five years with the married chancellor who is now carrying his child, he’s smoked an entire football field of weed, and yet he can’t seem to cut himself off, and he harbors a certain amount of jealousy for James Leer, a student of his who has managed to finish his novel, while he has not—and yet I liked him anyway, and I couldn’t wait to see what crisis he would manage to find himself in the middle of next. He’s a train wreck, but he’s a somewhat loveable train wreck all the same, because he recognizes that he’s a complete and utter mess, and he has little, if any, hope for redemption.

    This novel works, because Grady Tripp has a heart. He’s a man filled with misguided direction and false hope, and yet he still continues to go forth and attempt to conquer the world. He may have flushed seven years of his life down the toilet working on a novel that even he knows doesn’t really work, but he still believes there’s an ending out there somewhere for it, and all he has to do is find it. Like the main character, the prose of WONDER BOYS is both elegant and disturbing, and it’s a beautiful read from the first page to the last. And I enjoyed every single minute of it.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

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  • Posted December 17, 2010

    What can I say.. read it in 4 hours

    Seriously, I think there is no greater compliment to a writer than reading a book in one sitting.

    Bravo!

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Favourite

    This is one of my favourite books. I must admit I started with the movie, which is usually a bad idea (not in this case though), and bought the book a few years later. I finished it within a few days, and absolutely loved every bit of it.The style is refined, but not pompous,and very straightforward. The characters are unforgettable, and come alive without exception. I loved the dry humor of the novel, and I also appreciated the fact that it still remains very human. You can see, feel, touch the connection among the characters. It has a very real feel to it, and yet utterly absurd. I very highly recommend this novel.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Reading

    Another Michael Chabon that I thoroughly enjoyed. I could not put it down. It is an easy read. The characters are unique. The storyline is quirky. I am truly a Michael Chabon fan now.

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  • Posted December 1, 2008

    Great Writing About Writing

    Michael Chabon's amusing and insightful novel Wonderboys concerns an aging novelist, Grady Tripp (also the narrator), whose life and 2,600 page novel are quickly spinning onward without him. Other important characters include Grady¿s long-time agent, Terry Crabtree, and Grady¿s most gifted and troubled student, James Leer. The novel is divided into parts, of varying length, that move fluidly between present actions, the past, and what it means to be a writer. It is funny, sad, and bizarre in so many ways, but it does seem to capture some of the ethos of writing and reading literature.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    Wonder Boys

    Michael Chabon is a master of character development and has captured the angst and depression of Grady Tripp, the main character. Grady is suffering from writers block and the situations in which he finds himself are at once hilarious and tragic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2005

    So good....

    I'm usually a pretty loquacious writer, and not particularly fond of editorial cliches, yet Michael Chabon's novel 'Wonder Boys' dislodged me into a place where I can think of no better response than a cliche: I am speechless. An extraordinary novel, and simply one of the best I've ever explored. Bravo!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2005

    God, this is what books should be.

    Michael Chabon shows clearly in this novel that you can come back after a long time away and put something in print that matters. It speaks to the parts of us that make us readers and writers. An incredible read that will leave you feeling awed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2003

    Devastating wit

    This story itself is a terrific parody of the adventure novel with a callow middle aged anti-hero leading his most gifted student into the world of his personal disaters including divorce, infidelity, chemical dependance and an inability pull his fraying life (and novel) together. Funny beyond belief. A nice meditation on the the false pretences of intellectual life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2002

    Amazing

    Despite the fact that keeping a dictionary handy while reading this book proved helpful, I found Wonder Boys to be a real treat. This book is so eclectic and so well written that my copy is not only well worn, but also contains passages worthy of highlighting. Wonder Boys is truly full of wonder.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2002

    WONDERFUL STUFF

    Read the book or buy the video starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. A faithful adaptation of a very funny novel, Chabon's best by far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2002

    The Perfect College Novel

    Michael Chabon brings many things to the table with his second novel that many writers lack: a sly, and sometimes dark, sense of humor, dialogue and narrative that belongs in the Smithsonian, blunt honesty in the midst of the ridiculous, while still making the book real. The relationships between Grady Tripp and his students and peers provide a great deal of ammunition so that the book never gets dull--the story is very character-driven. This is an enjoyable read that also makes you think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2001

    'Wonder' full writing

    Witty, engaging, and more, this book makes you laugh. The ivory tower crowd may not like its scewering of college professors. Grady Tripp, a writer and tenured writing professor in Pittsburg, is at a crossroads in his life, and this book covers the weekend that decided his future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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