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.)
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.
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.
A beguiling and wickedly smart novel….There is firstrate satirical farce in Chabon's novel but essentially it is something rarer: satirical comedy.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
The young star of American letters…a writer not only of rare skill and wit but a selfevident and immensely appealing generosity.
The Washington Post Book World Review
[A] wise, wildly funny story…Chabon is a flatout wonderful writerevocative and inventive, pointed and poignant.
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.