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Michael Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Michael Chabon’s debut novel caused a bit of stir when it was first published in 1988. Some people yawned at what was yet another coming-of-age novel and it was often compared to The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. The whole novel takes place during one summer in, of course, Pittsburgh. The story is about Art Bechstein – Art – son of a Jewish gangster, a recent graduate from college. Early in the novel, he meets his namesake – Arthur (Lecomte) – and then the slightly strange Phlox. He manages to have an affair with both of them – homosexuality was quite fashionable in coming-of-age novels in the late twentieth century. Throw into the mix Cleveland, a shady character who wants to use Art to gain access to Art’s father, and we have the main cast of characters. Novels like this live and die not on their plot but on the ability of the author to tell a convincing and witty story and Chabon clearly shows here that he has the talent to do just that. His sharp observations, his remarks and asides, his comments on the characters and events (through the eyes of Art), his clever wordplay and his irony make this novel a fun read and indicative of the talent he will show in his later books.

Publishing history

First published in 1988 by William Morrow