Michael Chabon: Wonder Boys
After writing The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Chabon set out to write another novel (to be called Fountain City). After writing some 1500 pages, he abandoned it. The first chapter is on-line and McSweeneys published a 100 page fragment. Instead he turned to this novel, which is about a professor who has been struggling with a similar magnum opus which he seems unable to finish. Grady Tripp – the professor in question – may have some similarities to his creator but he is of a previous generation – clearly a child of the Sixties with his pot-smoking habit. He is also a professor of literature with a successful novel to his credit (but published seven years previously). Tripp stumbles from one crisis to another. WordFest, a sort of literary festival organized by the college, is coming up when Tripp’s wife leaves him and his mistress (the chancellor of the college and, of course, married) tells him that she is expecting his baby.
Tied inexorably in with him is James Leer, one of Tripp’s writing students, who has killed the chancellor’s dog (which ends up in Tripp’s trunk) and stole her husband’s prized Marilyn Monroe jacket (the one she wore the day she married Joe DiMaggio). And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Tripp and Leer get involved with gangsters, Tripp’s in-laws and a boa constrictor. They get drunk and they get stoned. And I haven’t even mentioned Tripp’s agent, Crabtree. In short this is a very funny and chaotic book, which Chabon keeps moving at a frantic pace, all the while mocking the literary life, academia, the Sixties and, of course, himself. And it clearly shows that Chabon is a talent to be reckoned with.
First published in 1995 by Villard