I liked Wonder Boys despite my best intentions

wonderboys

I really wanted to dislike Wonder Boys. I even tried to dislike it. I mean, here it was a book about writers (barf) by Michael Chabon (barf) who kind of gives me the willies (I think it’s the hair). Despite all that, Wonder Boys still crawled into my heart.

So we’ve got pot-smoking, wife-cheating, never-ending-novel writing Grady Tripp and the weekend from hell. His editor comes into town for writerpalooza or something and brings along a drag queen. Grady’s wife has also chosen that day to leave him and Grady’s mistress, the chancellor of the university he teaches at, also decides to tell him she’s pregnant. Oh and Grady also managed to thwart the suicide of his gifted-oddball student James Leer who steals a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe. Also, the chancellor’s dog is killed.

Can you stand up under the weight of that much contrived coincidence? Youch. And yet, it still works. I can’t quite figure out how or why, but it does. Maybe it’s because Grady’s voice is so strong. Maybe it’s because like so many of us Grady knows exactly what his problem is what he needs to do to fix it and yet, still doesn’t.

Part of the reason Wonder Boys works so well is that Chabon lets Grady say yes to every insane situation that comes up. Should I go to writerpalooza after my student has killed my married, pregnant-with-my-child lover’s dog? Hell yes. Should I take the dog’s body with me to hide the crime? Yes. Should I take my weird student to my soon-to-be-ex-in-laws’ house for Passover? Of course. Tell my sister-in-law about my infidelity? Why not.

So it goes on and on and on, with each crazy situation building on the next. But what remains true is Grady’s wry, insightful voice. Along the way he skewers every thing in his path from writing workshops to authors to editors to stoners to college students. It’s hilarious. I was so won over by Chabon and Wonder Boys that I am willing to give him another try.

(Full disclosure: I hated The Adventures of Kavlier & Clay with a passion I usually reserve for the Barenaked Ladies and mushrooms. To me it was a boring, drawn out big fat romance novel for men — comic books, wars, and love lost and reclaimed. Are you kidding me?)

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5 Comments

  1. Mark 18.Feb.09 at 3:20 pm

    you forgot to mention the killer soundtrack, anchored by several Dylan tunes. Oh wait, that was the movie….

    Reply
  2. dan 18.Feb.09 at 3:42 pm

    did you see the movie? (and if so, did you enoy it)and did you read “mysteries of pittsburgh”?

    oh and the writerpalooza thing is a real event they do at CMU.

    Reply
  3. Jodi 18.Feb.09 at 8:41 pm

    I did see the movie. But it’s been awhile. So I can’t remember how much I enjoyed it.

    No, I haven’t read Mysteries yet. Like I said, I read Kavelier & Clay and HATED it, so I never gave him another shot until now.

    Reply
  4. Florinda 19.Feb.09 at 4:11 pm

    Unlike you, I am a huge Michael Chabon fan in general :-), but “Wonder Boys” is my absolute favorite of his novels (and I love the movie version too, which I didn’t expect). As you said, all of the absurdity just works so well.

    Reply
  5. david 20.Feb.09 at 4:41 pm

    Just last week a friend said I was having a “Michael Chabon hair day.” I thought it was a compliment, but now I know better.

    Reply

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