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30 review for The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Like most stellar first novels, this one has that autobiographic vibe that perhaps the writer's future novels will only bravely hint at. This one is a coming out story, basically. The protagonist is gay, bi, experimenting. There are overly-masculine (gay) symbols throughout which obviously take no great psychoanalyst to pry open: mysterious men in motorbikes, gangsters, gaming, the faraway suburbs seeming faraway dreams that'll never be. The world so fully inhabited by BRET EASTON ELLIS is likew Like most stellar first novels, this one has that autobiographic vibe that perhaps the writer's future novels will only bravely hint at. This one is a coming out story, basically. The protagonist is gay, bi, experimenting. There are overly-masculine (gay) symbols throughout which obviously take no great psychoanalyst to pry open: mysterious men in motorbikes, gangsters, gaming, the faraway suburbs seeming faraway dreams that'll never be. The world so fully inhabited by BRET EASTON ELLIS is likewise the playing field in "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," though in this case the end of college (and not high school, or during college, like in Ellis) is marked by booze, drugs, sex... like, ya know, uber-bohemian proclivities. Yes, this one is better than "Less Than Zero", another effort at displaying the antics of 20-25 year olds still shaping out lives, but not as masterful as "The Rules of Attraction", where indeed no character WAS attractive, but the overall ambivalence was.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    So, I loved this book, and kind of wanted it to be my life, the way certain people I could name but won't feel about The Sun Also Rises. I was about fifty pages in, tops, before I found myself casting the movie in my head. (I deliberately avoided looking at the cast list until after I finished reading the book; thank god I did, I would have liked the book, I estimate, about 46% less had I know while reading it that Mena Suvari plays Phlox. Appalling.) Or, to be honest, imagining myself as the le So, I loved this book, and kind of wanted it to be my life, the way certain people I could name but won't feel about The Sun Also Rises. I was about fifty pages in, tops, before I found myself casting the movie in my head. (I deliberately avoided looking at the cast list until after I finished reading the book; thank god I did, I would have liked the book, I estimate, about 46% less had I know while reading it that Mena Suvari plays Phlox. Appalling.) Or, to be honest, imagining myself as the lead character in the movie of the book. Or, to be even more honest, imagining myself as the lead character in the real-life version of the book. I haven't done this since, I don't think, and funnily enough, Fortress of Solitude. (Not coicidentally, another book that takes place appealingly in a culturally signified past; I think it helps, if you're going to try to place yourself in a story, it helps to be able to place the story in a time and place that already seems and looks like part of history, as opposed to the uncertainly defined present.) Yeah, I know there are a hell of a lot of other things literature can do, but this was the first of the things that literature can do that literature did to me, and I'm glad to be reminded of how it feels. And you know what? Chabon knows exactly what he's doing. It's so obviously semi-autobiographical, embellished and romanticized (crime! great food! copius sex! adventures!), but essentially a not-quite-as-young-as-he-once-was man's marvel at his youth, and sadness at its passing. (I'm fairly certain I could have figured this out even if I had read an essay to that effect once.) Chabon makes it clear, I think, exactly how aware he is of all this, with passages about "the will to bigness," and the narrator's closing admission about his tendency to exaggerate. So The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a book about how art can make life bigger and better than it is. I should also mention that one of the reasons it pulls this off is because there's a memorable image, quotable bit of dialogue, fresh observation, or hilariously perfect and original turn of phrase on pretty much every page of the thing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    I, like tons of other goodreaders, wish we didn't have to give a book an entire star so really I rate this at a three and a half more than a four. In any event, I know that I liked this book, I'm just not sure how much I liked it or why I liked it. I mean, if a book holds your attention to the point where you can finish it quickly and are interested in picking it up everyday does that by itself make it a great book? Or a really good book? Because this book was that for me. Then again, some really I, like tons of other goodreaders, wish we didn't have to give a book an entire star so really I rate this at a three and a half more than a four. In any event, I know that I liked this book, I'm just not sure how much I liked it or why I liked it. I mean, if a book holds your attention to the point where you can finish it quickly and are interested in picking it up everyday does that by itself make it a great book? Or a really good book? Because this book was that for me. Then again, some really shitty Lifetime movies have been that for me, too. Depends on my mood. Some of the stuff in this book bugged me, though. Like, for example, how one of the main characters is a girl named "Phlox." Really? Seriously? Phlox from Pittsburgh? Then the main character, Arthur Bechstein, is annoyingly indecisive, cries often and for no apparent reason, and is one of those people who is into something because all his friends are. I think spineless is the word I'm looking for here. Despite all that, I still liked him. He's a nice guy. The story itself is nothing groundbreaking. Young man who cant relate to his father comes of age type shit. Only Chabon has mixed it up a bit by creating a main character who can't decide which one of his lovers, the guy or the girl, is true love and which one is lust. Also there's a back story involving the main character's father-- a Jewish Mob Boss-- and his thug-life homey who uses him (Arthur) for his underworld connections. What it all comes down to for me I guess is that whether or not a story is derivative or whether or not its been told before (which, you know, most have) doesn't matter if it's well executed. And that's where I'm confused. On the one hand I really enjoyed reading the book and found myself invested in the characters and absorbed by the story, but on the other hand there were plenty of times where I was really turned off by it and thought "This is total bullshit. Why is this here?" Ugh. I hate how I hated Arthur's indecisiveness and now I can't even decide how I feel about this book. What Bullshi! PS- This movie: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2429... seems very little like the book I just read. And I can't believe I didn't realize for nearly the entire time I was reading this book that a) there was a movie made about it and b) It's the movie Sienna Miller was filming when she referred to Pittsburgh "Shitsburgh"? So that's kinda cool. Edit: OK, I'm knocking it down to just three stars. I just wasn't comfortable with the four that were up there.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel León

    Michael Chabon can write one hell of a novel. This one is his first but has so much poise and wisdom. And it has the added bonus of being immensely readable and not bogged down with super obscure words like some of his work. I gobbled it up.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Katzman

    My eyes rolled so much when reading this, I thought they might pop out of their sockets. This is one of our great American writers? A Pulitzer Prize winner? What a sad state of affairs that is. I suppose Kavalier & Clay is the one I'm supposed to read...but since I received this from the publisher for free, and it was by Chabon, I thought at least it would be good if not great. It was terrible. Just awful. There was almost nothing about it that I liked. It was nearly unbearable, and I would h My eyes rolled so much when reading this, I thought they might pop out of their sockets. This is one of our great American writers? A Pulitzer Prize winner? What a sad state of affairs that is. I suppose Kavalier & Clay is the one I'm supposed to read...but since I received this from the publisher for free, and it was by Chabon, I thought at least it would be good if not great. It was terrible. Just awful. There was almost nothing about it that I liked. It was nearly unbearable, and I would have put it aside without finishing it if I hadn't owed the publisher "an honest review" based on the free book. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh really got on my nerves. First person stories can be tricky. You have to be willing to live with the character for an entire book. The main character here was a whiny, douchebaggy, lying, pseudo-witty, insecure, recent college grad trying to "find himself." I just wanted to constantly slap him, not to hear his semi-clever little jokes and his oh-so-tedious struggle with "deciding" if he was gay or not gay. Get the fuck over it, buddy. I couldn't care about this guys struggle to decide whether or not to cheat on his girlfriend (whom he thought he loved) with this charming Machiavellian hipster dude. I have no doubt there are many in society today who struggle with their gender ambiguity. But reading about this sort of whiny struggle in the 80s didn't provide any better understanding about the struggle today. It's seemed so dated...this book has lost its relevancy since it was published in 1988. Perhaps that is mainly due to the awkwardness and contrived nature of all the relationship in this particular book. I'm sure in the hands of other more capable authors, a story of facing ones gender ambiguity could be meaningful in ANY time setting. But in this particular story, the storytelling no longer seemed relevant. I would think that almost everyone who reads Pulitzer Prize winning mainstream literary authors is 99.9% likely to be socially liberal even if they are economically libertarian. So who is gaining empathy for someone struggling with being gay in the 80s? We've moved on past this, and the battle lines are clearly set between the right-wing racist/homophobes authoritarians who support the Republican party and the liberal humanists who range from supporting Democrats to anarchists, socialists, etc. Right wing homophobes are not reading Chabon and aren't going to be moved either by this annoying hipster college grad weiner who can't make up his mind about what he is. If you are trying to get readers to accept and like someone struggling with gender ambiguity then create someone we can care about. The other characters were equally smarmy, phony and awkwardly written. And their relationships were just odd and a few steps off from realistic. I liked none of them nor believed any of them despite the profusion of tiny character details intended to build realism. I fluctuate in my appreciation for realistic characters and experimentalism in literature. It's books like these where they teeter between contrived details to create believability and "quality" writing (yes, he's not incompetent as a writer) where I become most disgusted by realism, feeling the author is just attempting to trick the reader into believing his story. This book's premise seems dated (it literally is, being set in the 80s) and besides the point. In fact, it's so besides the point that the supposedly realistic characters in this book never ONCE mentioned anything about politics. It's set in the 80s when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were Presidents for fuck's sake. And not a single mention of it by any character? These were all kids just graduated or recently graduating college. And the government never once crossed their mind? That reinforced the bizarre myopia for me. And writing about Pittsburgh...if the setting was important enough to put in the title, then what was the point of that? What did we learn about Pittsburgh? One would think we would learn about the experience of living in Pittsburgh, perhaps the collapse of the steel industry and blue-collar career opportunities and unions would be some aspect of the book. Nope. For some reason Chabon elected to choose semi-intellectual college grads who seems more like New Yorkers to represent the city. And gangsters. Yes, old school mafia gangsters. These choices baffled me and felt completely irrelevant to understand...the city or anyone, for that matter. Post-college grads trying to "find themselves" could happen in any city, but somehow this was supposed to represent Pittsburgh? And somehow the recognition one's gayness or bisexuality gets mashed up with dealing with his father being in the mafia? It was a schizophrenic muddle that did not come together. I get the feeling some of the relationship stories in here were fictionalized autobiography. Big. Deal. They made for a terrible and terribly annoying story. If this character was somehow based himself, then all I can say he, he makes a terrible character that I wanted to run over with a car. Mysteries of Pittsburgh? More like the Mysteries of Why Chabon Wrote this Self Indulgent Waste of Time. It's just a bad book. ​

  6. 3 out of 5

    Nikki Boisture

    I've read this book three times. I'm trying to decide exactly what it is that I love so much about it. Michael Chabon's writing style makes me long for such skill. I get an ache in my stomach reading his works and loving them so much and wishing his words could come from me. The characters in this book aren't wonderful people, but they are wonderfully real. Art's lack of self-confidence especially speaks to me. When Art falls in love with Arthur I fell in love with Arthur right along with him. I I've read this book three times. I'm trying to decide exactly what it is that I love so much about it. Michael Chabon's writing style makes me long for such skill. I get an ache in my stomach reading his works and loving them so much and wishing his words could come from me. The characters in this book aren't wonderful people, but they are wonderfully real. Art's lack of self-confidence especially speaks to me. When Art falls in love with Arthur I fell in love with Arthur right along with him. I love that this book takes place over one summer, just like Gatsby, which is its obvious inspiration. I love how 1980's the book felt. I was 3-13 years old in the 80's, so I have nothing but faint memories and old John Hughes movies to remind me of that time period. Mysteries of Pittsburgh almost feels like a period piece reading it now, and I mean that in the BEST possible way. I love the Pittsburgh references and Chabon's obvious attachment to that city, as my husband is from Pittsburgh and we love to visit once a year. It's hard to explain...I just get an emotional charge from even thinking about this book! I know this review wasn't that well-written. But my love of this book makes my thoughts all jumbled and it's the only way I could get it down....

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stef Smulders

    Now what a masterful writer is this! Very precise and compelling with beautiful convincing descriptions. When I came across the following lines I had to stop reading, flabbergasted by what must be the best paragraph I read in years: "Before she committed suicide, when he was seventeen, Cleveland Arning's mother, a laughing woman, taught her son to joke and to ridicule. His father, tall, thin, cut his beard in a goatee and wore great red sideburns that ran up his otherwise bald temples. His name w Now what a masterful writer is this! Very precise and compelling with beautiful convincing descriptions. When I came across the following lines I had to stop reading, flabbergasted by what must be the best paragraph I read in years: "Before she committed suicide, when he was seventeen, Cleveland Arning's mother, a laughing woman, taught her son to joke and to ridicule. His father, tall, thin, cut his beard in a goatee and wore great red sideburns that ran up his otherwise bald temples. His name was also Cleveland, and although he did indeed have his own grim notions of what made a joke, he laughed only rarely, generally in the privacy of his own study. In the kitchen, Cleveland and his mother would listen to the inexplicable sound of his father's laughter coming through the oaken door, and whatever story Cleveland had been telling to make her laugh would die on his lips. They would chew in silence, clatter the dishes into the sink, and go to their rooms. Cleveland senior was a psychiatrist." A complete novel in a few lines only. The story itself is moving, complicated as a result of the ambiguity of Art's feelings about his life and the world of his father as well as about his sexual orientation. A rich debut! Afterthought: what makes Chabon's writing so special is that his characters become so real that you would not be surprised to encounter them in real life. In fact, you want to encounter them, because they have become your friends.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shea

    I bought this book many years ago while actually in Pittsburgh. I was visiting a girlfriend who was living there, and shortly after my arrival I was unceremoniously dumped. Browsing the street of the unfamiliar town I was supposed to spend the next 3 days in, I stumbled upon this book. Based on title alone it seemed an appropriate subject, given my recent circumstance. I imagined myself sitting and reading for days at a bench on the Monongahela, forlornly pondering life's intricacies. Instead I w I bought this book many years ago while actually in Pittsburgh. I was visiting a girlfriend who was living there, and shortly after my arrival I was unceremoniously dumped. Browsing the street of the unfamiliar town I was supposed to spend the next 3 days in, I stumbled upon this book. Based on title alone it seemed an appropriate subject, given my recent circumstance. I imagined myself sitting and reading for days at a bench on the Monongahela, forlornly pondering life's intricacies. Instead I went to New York for a weekend bender. It somehow seemed more cathartic. Anyway, I finally read this book, and sorta wish I'd read it back then. It truly captures that agonizing/exhilarating/mysterious time of post-college youth when you're trying to decipher love and life and your place in the future. (The bender was fun, though.)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A contemporary novel about a young man who graduates from college and spends a summer wandering about Pittsburgh. Art, our protagonist, struggles to decide between his male and female lovers, and he also attempts to navigate a risky relationship with his money laundering father, who happens to get involved with one of Art's new friends, Cleveland, an intelligent and disillusioned biker. Throughout all of these relationships Art gets closer to discovering what makes him himself, the most puzzling A contemporary novel about a young man who graduates from college and spends a summer wandering about Pittsburgh. Art, our protagonist, struggles to decide between his male and female lovers, and he also attempts to navigate a risky relationship with his money laundering father, who happens to get involved with one of Art's new friends, Cleveland, an intelligent and disillusioned biker. Throughout all of these relationships Art gets closer to discovering what makes him himself, the most puzzling mystery of them all. I enjoyed The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. It read like a mixture of Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You and Adam and The Catcher in the Rye. Michael Chabon writes Art in a smooth, sophisticated way that captures his insight and develops his voice without resorting to cryptic or flowery language. The flow of the story felt like a summer exploration, with Art meeting new people and engaging in ephemeral relationships that end up affecting him forever. Here's a quote from when Art first meets Arthur, one of his romantic interests: I laughed, but Arthur stood straight, looked deeply, beautifully sympathetic for perhaps a tenth of a second, and nodded, with that fine, empty courtesy he seemed to show everyone. He had an effortless genius for manners; remarkable, perhaps, just because it was unique among people his age. It seemed to me that Arthur, with his old, strange courtliness, would triumph over any scene he chose to make; that in a world made miserable by frankness, his handsome condescension, his elitism, and his perfect lack of candy were fatal gifts, and I wanted to serve in his corps and to be socially graceful. My three-star rating comes from Art's general lack of direction in the novel. The book showcases his journey to find himself, but I found Art's purposelessness a bit confounding, especially when it came to his relationships with Phlox (his female lover), Arthur, and Cleveland. His lack of conviction made me question the depth of his connections, and as a result I felt less of an emotional pull when each of his relationships came to a crisis point. Overall, recommended to those searching for a well-written, somewhat directionless read about a young man's self-discovery after college. Not my favorite book, but a unique one that I will remember for at least a little while.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Armendariz

    This book is my new personal favorite. Mostly because of this quote, "Every woman is a volume of stories, a catalogue of movements, a spectacular array of images." The other quotes I like are: “There had been a time in high school, see, when I wrestled with the possibility that I might be gay, a torturous six-month culmination of years of unpopularity and girllessness. At night I lay in bed and coolly informed myself that I was gay and that I had better get used to it.” “It was as though she had stu This book is my new personal favorite. Mostly because of this quote, "Every woman is a volume of stories, a catalogue of movements, a spectacular array of images." The other quotes I like are: “There had been a time in high school, see, when I wrestled with the possibility that I might be gay, a torturous six-month culmination of years of unpopularity and girllessness. At night I lay in bed and coolly informed myself that I was gay and that I had better get used to it.” “It was as though she had studied American notions of beauty from some great distance and had come all the way only to find she had overdone the details: a debutante from another planet.” “… listened for accents of friendship: the banality, relaxation, and lack of style that characterize a conversation between two friends.” “‘Let’s drink something cool and refeshing,’ Phlox said, bobbing her head, widening and then narrowing her eyes like some lustful and wily biblical queen. ‘Beer,’ said Arthur and I.” “A gin and tonic under its tiny canopy of lime elevates character and makes for enlightened conversation.” “That evening I rode downtown on an unaccountably empty bus, sitting in the last row. At the front I saw a thin cloud of smoke rising around the driver’s head. ‘Hey, bus driver,’ I said. ‘Can I smoke?’ ‘May I,’ said the bus driver. ‘I love you,’ I said.” “An unfamiliar restaurant can be a very disorienting thing.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    As this novel opens, two contradictory worlds quickly coalesce around Arthur Bechstein, freshly minted college graduate. The first is uninspired and conventional. The second is filled with open-ended, over-sized, impractical possibilities. Art Bechstein has lived a sheltered life ever since his mother died when he was 13. His college major in economics attests to the kind of level-headed direction a father would approve of. (A paper on Sigmund Freud's sexual nose fetish tells us where his real in As this novel opens, two contradictory worlds quickly coalesce around Arthur Bechstein, freshly minted college graduate. The first is uninspired and conventional. The second is filled with open-ended, over-sized, impractical possibilities. Art Bechstein has lived a sheltered life ever since his mother died when he was 13. His college major in economics attests to the kind of level-headed direction a father would approve of. (A paper on Sigmund Freud's sexual nose fetish tells us where his real interest lies). His father has always kept a tight leash on Art through his pocketbook and old-fashioned guilt tripping. Art freely admits that after this precious brief summer of freedom he will follow a career that his father has lined up for him. Even the break-up with his girlfriend Claire seems influenced by Joe Bechstein, who disapproved of her, maintaining she was preternaturally psychotic. The problem is that Joe Bechstein is a powerful figure in the Jewish mafia. He has always kept Art at a distance from his criminal activities, and Art, as one cynical friend has observed, has never looked into how the sausages at the family concession stand are made. A chance encounter connects Art with Arthur Lecomte, a promiscuous homosexual. Lecomte introduces Bechstein to a world where people affect fluid identities and go by dadaist nicknames like MauMau (Phlox), Momo (Mohammad), and Riri (that might actually have been her real name). The most influential of these new acquaintances will be Cleveland, a Harley-riding alcoholic, a “manifestation of the will-to-bigness” pursuing life (hedonism) and love (Jane Bellwether) with compulsive misadventure. That explosive spontaneity is catnip to Bechstein, who has already confronted his own anxiety about adulthood: “My worst nightmare was a boring nightmare, the dream of visiting an empty place where nothing happened, with awful slowness.” (p.42) A second scene when he stands on a precipice overlooking the distant figures in a working class neighborhood, reinforces the point: “I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and to devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger.” (p.52) This sense of destiny, however, is not Bechstein's driving anxiety. Instead we see him wrestling with a sexual indecision between Phlox, a student of French prone to dramatic pronouncements sourced from literary quotes, and Lecomte, chameleon-like, worldly and louche. Pittsburgh permeates this novel with descriptions of the Lost Neighborhood (Junction Hollow), Fox Chapel (an actual affluent leafy township), the Duquesne Hotel, and the Cloud Factory (Bellefield Boiler Plant). No doubt a resident of Pittsburgh would be much more transported by these references. How does Bechstein resolve his attraction for Phlox and Lecomte? Where will his friendship with Cleveland lead? Will he be successful in asserting his independence from Joe Bechstein? Will Bechstein find a cure for his loneliness? Unfortunately, I just didn't care. This novel is regarded as a coming of age story, and my lack of empathy was fatal to my ability to like this book. I admit, this is purely a subjective assessment. The book might strike a deeper chord with male readers. The book is narrated in the first person voice of Art Bechstein. There is one notable exception. Chapter 22 (“The Beast that Ate Cleveland”) is narrated in a third person voice. I found that voice much more engaging. The first-person voice seemed too conducive to self-indulgence on the part of the author. Chabon is a talented writer, and his observations about inebriation are some of the most memorable lines in the book. For example, here is a depiction of one of the characters: “The alcohol had deserted him during his run through the woods, but now it returned, with all the rancor of an I-told-you-so....” (p.278) Other passages reveal Chabon's mischievous sense of humor. Art is maneuvered into inviting Phlox to dinner with his father. They accidentally encounter a local kingpin, “Uncle Lenny” and his wife, “Aunt Elaine.” Lenny and Elaine insinuate themselves into their table. Art is painfully aware that a few tables away sit a pair of FBI operatives who are obviously keeping tabs on the pair. This was Chabon's first published novel. It was interesting to me only as a historical artifact, to be compared with Chabon's later works.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frederick

    This was Michael Chabon's first novel. He was in his early twenties when it was published. It was widely praised. While many of the critics focused on the sexual ambiguities of the main character, what Chabon clearly showed here was his gift, to this day undiminished, for giving architectural landscape a personality. In every Chabon novel or story I've read, manmade structures give meaning to the characters' actions. If I exaggerate, then allow me to clarify what I'm saying. Are the characters in This was Michael Chabon's first novel. He was in his early twenties when it was published. It was widely praised. While many of the critics focused on the sexual ambiguities of the main character, what Chabon clearly showed here was his gift, to this day undiminished, for giving architectural landscape a personality. In every Chabon novel or story I've read, manmade structures give meaning to the characters' actions. If I exaggerate, then allow me to clarify what I'm saying. Are the characters in THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH not often scrambling in giant, broken down arenas, negotiating rusty staircases and climbing up brick edifices? And isn't Chabon's trump-card the fact that the reader WANTS to read about the utilitarian monuments which house his characters? WONDER BOYS would be the book I'd give to someone from another country who might want an idea of what it LOOKS like to live here. There is a Michael Chabon masterpiece which more people should seek. It's buried on his official website (if that website is still up. I haven't checked it out in three years.) [Note added Feb. 6th, 2008: An article which I think is the same one I'm thinking of appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 26th, 1993 and is called PRAGUE: LOST ERA'S LAST SURVIVOR. I can't tell if it's the same one because I can't get the TIMES'S website to bring it up. By the way, here's a web-page listing that article, as well as many other articles and books by Michael Chabon: http://www.sugarbombs.com/kavalier/wo... an essay about a trip he made to Prague. He describes the famous, eccentric architecture. But this is not mere travel writing. This is about a city which drove out its Jewish population as the Nazis swept across Europe. The architecture, ornate and whimsical, draws tourists, while the monstrosities within its hallucinatory frame are forgotten. Chabon visits the Jewish cemetary and sees blond-haired, blue-eyed visitors, obviously Gentiles, making a show of grief. The beautiful, eccentric, mad architecture lives generations after multitudes of innocents who had called it home were taken from its shelter and slaughtered.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Oh my. I could read this again and again. I've been saying this tons of times, but I'm certain that the reading experience will always change, will always morph into something else. Every sentence breathes. It's so beautifully written, and many times I find myself pausing just to savor the beauty of it. Here are some quotes that I like: “I saw that I'd been mistaken when I thought of myself as a Wall, because a wall stands between, and holds apart, two places, two worlds, whereas, if anything, I Oh my. I could read this again and again. I've been saying this tons of times, but I'm certain that the reading experience will always change, will always morph into something else. Every sentence breathes. It's so beautifully written, and many times I find myself pausing just to savor the beauty of it. Here are some quotes that I like: “I saw that I'd been mistaken when I thought of myself as a Wall, because a wall stands between, and holds apart, two places, two worlds, whereas, if anything, I was nothing but a portal, ever widening, along a single obscure corridor that ran all the way from my mother and father to Cleveland.” “But the first lie in the series is the one you make with the greatest trepidation and the heaviest heart.” “I thought, I fancied, that in a moment, I would be standing on nothing at all, and for the first time in my life, I needed the wings none of us has.” “I was conscious, then, of a different ache, deeper and more sharp than the feeling of bereavement that a hangover will sometimes uncover in the heart.” At first glance, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is the story of how a young man spends his post-graduate summer. He's currently trying to find himself and all that sort of thing. Until, one day, he stumbles upon a person who eventually leads him to meeting more and more people, like a chain; people who will inevitably make a massive impact on his life, forcing him to make decisions he never would have bothered himself with before, forcing him to accept everything that comes with such choices, even if it meant heartache and a whole lot of sadness. Sounds like your typical coming-of-age story, doesn't it? Well, far from it. A few pages in and I knew this was going to be a completely different ride. This is where Chabon’s magic comes in--the glorious writing. Some people might have issues with it; some might say it’s a bit too flowery for their taste, veering dangerously close to redundancy, but I’d beg to differ. It’s pure poetry. It’s like you’re looking at a nondescript, terribly boring piece of rock, but once Chabon describes it, it transforms into something else, and you’d be surprised--and a bit vexed--at yourself for not having perceived it that way before. I’m only deducting a star because of the characters. Don’t get me wrong--they’re really well-developed, and I could see the effort behind their construction. They’re also very distinct from each other; one could immediately see their prominent traits and describe them in detail. They could be anyone you know, anyone you meet on the streets. However, I have some issues with Art Bechstein (the protagonist). He’s so realistic to the point that I don’t get him at all. I thought I knew him because, well, he is the one telling me all these details, giving me all his thoughts, but once he acts, I suddenly realize that he’s withholding something about himself, and it hits me that I haven’t the slightest notion on who he is at all. And I don’t fully agree with his choices. Sometimes he acts all strong and mighty, sometimes he’s weeping like a kid. Oh, and I also feel that he’s really such a bastard sometimes. And, lastly, what I abhor the most is that despite all these, I somehow can’t help liking him. Sigh. Job well done, Chabon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gadi

    I'll be generous. This book did not capture me. The writing felt amateur in ways that stunned me. I remember feeling lost in Kavalier and Clay, floating on wave after wave of blindingly gorgeous sentences, paragraphs, so complex and bold that you couldn't help but feel an awesome seasickness. Here, though, the writing is just plain old insecure. Chabon plays it like a coward, and Art sounds like a boring crybaby who we end up not liking that much because, well, he can't write fo shit. Not that the I'll be generous. This book did not capture me. The writing felt amateur in ways that stunned me. I remember feeling lost in Kavalier and Clay, floating on wave after wave of blindingly gorgeous sentences, paragraphs, so complex and bold that you couldn't help but feel an awesome seasickness. Here, though, the writing is just plain old insecure. Chabon plays it like a coward, and Art sounds like a boring crybaby who we end up not liking that much because, well, he can't write fo shit. Not that the characters were really that good, either. Art basically said that Phlox was fake, with her lack of humor and her pretend mannerisms and her constant attempts to change the way she presented herself to the world. What he neglected to tell us was that everyone else in the book was fake in their own special ways, too. And if not fake, then at least too much stock character and not enough larger-than-life-ness. I despised Cleveland and thought he was unlikable the way Hitler is unlikable. Art's father felt more like a set piece/deus ex machina than a person. And Arthur was just not really someone we got to deeply know, I feel, unless you count his homosexuality as profound facet #1 of his personality. That's not to say that the writing was abysmal. It wasn't. It was bad for Michael Chabon, good when compared to other human beings. I was interested in Art's life, which is good. The last couple of pages were cool. Parallel to Gatsby tickled my heart a bit. I'm torn between 2 and 3, because I actually read this book with interest, even though I don't think it's great. "It was okay," I'd say, which is 2-star... and this is Michael Chabon, so comeonnnnnn. Yknow he could've done something better than this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Speedtribes

    This is what I call the "It was summer and we were young" school of youthful indiscretion and confused attempts at living the Full Life. The story is filled to the max with sexual confusion, societal yearning and emotional tug of war between what the protagonist calls his beautiful god-like people -- all put together in a sleepy, yellow-warm and lyrical package. I had a little difficulty buying into some of the situations and characters and I'm not entirely certain the ending had been built up e This is what I call the "It was summer and we were young" school of youthful indiscretion and confused attempts at living the Full Life. The story is filled to the max with sexual confusion, societal yearning and emotional tug of war between what the protagonist calls his beautiful god-like people -- all put together in a sleepy, yellow-warm and lyrical package. I had a little difficulty buying into some of the situations and characters and I'm not entirely certain the ending had been built up enough before it impacted. I also found myself struggling with a general sense of distaste for the people and the dissolute lifestyle the main character seemed to indirectly yearn for. (Or rather, I just think he has poor taste.) But. There is a very big but. It was summer. And I know what it feels like to want quietly and graspingly for unknown things. To remember a life that is better than reality, because nostalgia is a powerful mechanism. It was that gentle nostalgia pervading the whole story that really sold me to the story. I didn't need to like the people, or the events to understand the whys behind all the emotion and hows and things. The writing is smooth, clear and very pretty. Chabon really is quite good. I'm definitely going to read the rest of his work.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    What a stupid book. The writing is uncreative and dull, the plot is close to non-existent, and sweet jesus do I ever hate these characters. All that, and an unsettling number (well, three) of sudden and sloppy accounts of buttsex. I will give credit to the early scene of the party at the Iranian woman's home and the final few paragraphs, but the ~270 pages in between are simply not worth the time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Might I just say that over the last few days I’ve found it intensely irritating when anything has come between this book and me. Suckered in from the opening sentences: At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We’d just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will – a year I’d spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frank Might I just say that over the last few days I’ve found it intensely irritating when anything has come between this book and me. Suckered in from the opening sentences: At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We’d just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will – a year I’d spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frankness and a fury that were not at all like him. But Claire had moved out the month before. Neither my father nor I knew what to do with our new freedom. How could I put it down after that? I'd even fall asleep with it in my hand. He wrote this at age twenty-three, which quite astonishes me. It has a clever-but-never-smart-arsed-never-jarring technical excellence that leaves me rereading again and again as I go along. After two others of his, I assumed he worked bloody hard at this, but 23 years old? Maybe he was just born that way. Or both. I’d bet my last dollar he works hard, really hard, that every word is polished and scrutinised before being left on the page. I hope this doesn’t make it sound cold. This is an author who loves every one of his characters and therefore we cannot but love them too. A booky extract for goodreaders: I’d wanted to work in a true, old-fashioned bookshop, crammed with the mingled smells of literature and Pittsburgh blowing in through the open door. Instead I’d got myself hired by Boardwalk Books. Boardwalk, a chain, sold books at low prices, in huge, flourescent, supermarket style, a style perfaced by glumness and by an uncomprehending distaste for its low-profit merchandise. The store, with its long white aisles and megalithic piles of discount thrillers and exercise guides, was organised as though the management had hoped to sell luncheon meat or lawn care products, but had somehow been tricked by an unscrupulous wholesaler – I imagined the disappointed ‘what the hell are we going to do with all these damned books?’ of the owners who had started in postcards and seaside souvenirs on the Jersey shore. As far as they were concerned, a good book was still a plump little paperback that knew how to sit in a beach-bag and keep its dirty mouth shut. ‘Literature’ was squeezed into a miniature and otherwise useless alcove between War and Home Improvement, and of all the employees, several of whom were fat and wanted to be paramedics, I was the only one who found irregularity in the fact that Boardwalk sold the Monarch notes to such works as Tristram Shandy, that it did not actually stock. I was to spend the daytime summer stunned by air-conditioning, almost without a thought in my head, waiting for the engagement of evening. Summer would happen after dinner. The job had no claim upon me. What else can I say? Oh yes. It has a character called Manny in it, thus possibly confirming Paul’s suspicions about how many of them there are. No amount of pleading, bribery or threats will make me say more on this matter, you’ll just have to buy the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tung

    My fourth Chabon work in a row after having read Final Solution, Model World, and Werewolves in their Youth in the past few weeks. Thankfully, this is the last of his early works for me to read, since I don’t know how much more unpolished Chabon I can take. Mysteries is Chabon’s first published work, his master’s thesis at Cal-Irvine. The book takes place in Pittsburgh at an unnamed college, and revolves around a college student named Art Bechstein whose father is a Jewish gangster. Art meets se My fourth Chabon work in a row after having read Final Solution, Model World, and Werewolves in their Youth in the past few weeks. Thankfully, this is the last of his early works for me to read, since I don’t know how much more unpolished Chabon I can take. Mysteries is Chabon’s first published work, his master’s thesis at Cal-Irvine. The book takes place in Pittsburgh at an unnamed college, and revolves around a college student named Art Bechstein whose father is a Jewish gangster. Art meets several friends – Arthur (a gay student in love with Art), Phlox (an eccentric girl also in love with Art), and Cleveland (a wild young guy with no clear future who is involved with the mob) – and the book winds its way around their relationships to Art and to each other, while at the same time exploring Art expanding his mind and boundaries and trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. All of this takes place in the shadow of Art’s relationship to his gangster father. For a first novel, it’s well-written and you can see glimpses of Chabon’s strengths: perfectly-developed characters, natural dialogue, complex relationships. But that’s what made this frustrating for me; having read Chabon’s best works first (Kavalier & Klay & Final Solution), seeing how unpolished Mysteries is alters how much I enjoyed this book. My biggest gripes about Mysteries are in its pacing and in its protagonist. Pacing-wise, Mysteries spends way too much time (in my estimation, about 4/5 of the book) shaping the main characters, developing their interactions, and setting up the book’s climax so that when it wraps up in the final few chapters, it feels rushed. This book doesn’t have the scope that Kavalier & Klay had: hundreds of pages fleshing out decades of lives. Rather, Mysteries takes place in one summer in 300 pages; I feel like Chabon could have shortened much of the set-up and expanded the ending to even out the timeline of events. Protagonist-wise, Art is the least likable character in any of the Chabon works I’ve read. He spends far too much time crying and acting passively, which might be somewhat natural for a young kid finding himself, but I simply didn’t care for him in the least. And Art is such a critical protagonist to the story – more directly connected to everything and everyone in this book than other protagonists in other books – that if you don’t like him, the story ends up falling short, which it just does for me. Not quite recommended, unfortunately.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Take a dull boy in a dull city during a dull, liminal summer. Not an adult but soon-to-be, not really anything yet but certain he will be. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh begins at this doorway and records Art Bechstein’s quest for a summer of whimsy and profundity that will change him for the better. June finds Art making fantastic new friends who all seem to know how to live better than he does. Inspired, Art sits atop a hill in Pittsburgh and thinks this: I smoked and looked down at the bottom of Take a dull boy in a dull city during a dull, liminal summer. Not an adult but soon-to-be, not really anything yet but certain he will be. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh begins at this doorway and records Art Bechstein’s quest for a summer of whimsy and profundity that will change him for the better. June finds Art making fantastic new friends who all seem to know how to live better than he does. Inspired, Art sits atop a hill in Pittsburgh and thinks this: I smoked and looked down at the bottom of Pittsburgh for a little while, watching the kids playing tiny baseball, the distant figures of dogs snatching at a little passing car, a miniature housewife on her back porch shaking out a snippet of red rug, and I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and to devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger. June leads to July and then August, sultry months that will find Art in various predicaments that are recounted nostalgically even as they are happening for the first time, and throughout Art will interrogate himself: How does one become “big”? But to answer how, it is necessary to answer what. What does it mean to be “big”? Each character approaches bigness differently, and Art finds something to envy with every one. Big, mean Cleveland steps onto the page straight from a Hollywood action sequence. He is undoubtedly the biggest character in the novel. But you don’t even have to squint to notice how small he is inside. He resorts to showing off to hide his emptiness, and yet everyone around him idolizes him, fears him, historicizes him even though he’s a 20-something who has barely started living. The other two principals in Art’s motley crew are Phlox, the girlfriend described as a movie star beauty but who is terribly mundane beneath it all, and Arthur, the cultivated gay man who feigns coming from a palace but actually grew up in a 2-bedroom ranch. Every character starts out big but pops at some point, floating downwards towards the blue-collar streets of Pittsburgh. Maybe down there they aren’t big, but there they can stop and think for a while. And maybe there, like Art, they’ll learn that bigness doesn’t come with living; it comes with remembering. Philosophizing, exaggerating, daydreaming—whatever you want to call it. People are big when they give you something to think about.

  20. 3 out of 5

    Oscar

    ‘Los misterios de Pittsburgh’ fue la primera novela de Michael Chabon, y en ella se encuentra el germen de lo que es su magnífica carrera literaria. Sin ser una novela redonda, sí contiene la suficiente calidad como para convertirla en una lectura imprescindible para comprender lo que serían las siguientes obras de Chabon, sobre todo ‘Chicos prodigiosos’ y la obra maestra que es ‘Las asombrosas aventuras de Kavalier y Clay’, ganadora del Pulitzer, sin olvidar sus excelentes relatos, muchos de el ‘Los misterios de Pittsburgh’ fue la primera novela de Michael Chabon, y en ella se encuentra el germen de lo que es su magnífica carrera literaria. Sin ser una novela redonda, sí contiene la suficiente calidad como para convertirla en una lectura imprescindible para comprender lo que serían las siguientes obras de Chabon, sobre todo ‘Chicos prodigiosos’ y la obra maestra que es ‘Las asombrosas aventuras de Kavalier y Clay’, ganadora del Pulitzer, sin olvidar sus excelentes relatos, muchos de ellos publicados en el prestigioso New Yorker. La historia, ambientada en los 80, tiene como protagonista y narrador a Art Bechstein, que cuenta el verano que pasó al término de sus estudios universitarios, meses tras los cuáles tendrá que dar el gran paso hacia la vida de adulto y asumir responsabilidades como tal. Art, que trabaja a tiempo parcial en una librería, conocerá un día a Arthur, lo que supondrá un cambio fundamental en su vida, así como una forma de evasión frente a lo que está por venir. Pero el personaje de Art, siendo el protagonista total de la novela, no me ha interesado tanto como los secundarios: el propio Arthur, gay y al que no le importa reconocerlo; la encantadora Phlox, tan especial como su nombre, una chica que trabaja en la biblioteca y que se siente atraída por Art; Cleveland, amigo de Arthur, que vive para su motocicleta, su novia Jane y sus sueños, y la propia Jane, preocupada siempre por Cleveland y sus líos, y de la que he echado de menos algo más de protagonismo. De la mano de este grupo de amigos obtenemos una visión inteligente y emocionante, quizás algo ingenua, de lo que significa el paso a la madurez, y del que Art aprenderá a disfrutar del placer de una conversación, de la amistad sincera y del amor. Una parte fundamental de la novela es la ambigüedad sexual del protagonista, que duda constantemente entre el amor por Arthur o Phlox. Así mismo, también es importante en la vida de Art la difícil relación que mantiene con su padre, el clásico gángster, con el que cena eventualmente y de cuyo cariño y reconocimiento tiene absoluta dependencia. En resumen, ‘Los misterios de Pittsburgh’ es una novela muy bien escrita, que no hace más que apuntar en lo que se convertiría Chabon con los años: uno de los mejores escritores norteamericanos actuales.

  21. 3 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    The only other Michael Chabon book I have read is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but that was enough to put him on my radar in a big way. In picking up this book, I was going back to his very early work, a coming-of-age-in-a-hot-summer tale of sexuality and transgression. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  22. 3 out of 5

    И~N

    This first novel of Michel Chabon presents some of the most characteristic features of author's further development. In the small and dense atmosphere of Pittsburgh, Chabon introduces the reader to the world of a young man and its perplexities. Written with wit, embroidered with tiny observations about life, the story goes along with the main character's summer adventures, his personal discoveries and biases. Although some moments when the whole writing has captivated my attention and pushed me This first novel of Michel Chabon presents some of the most characteristic features of author's further development. In the small and dense atmosphere of Pittsburgh, Chabon introduces the reader to the world of a young man and its perplexities. Written with wit, embroidered with tiny observations about life, the story goes along with the main character's summer adventures, his personal discoveries and biases. Although some moments when the whole writing has captivated my attention and pushed me further in the story-line, all could quite immerse into the story. The characters were very interesting and intriguing, their 'adventures', though, couldn't develop some strong interest on my side. The atmosphere of a dense circle and a small, or rather - not big and cosmopolitan city, was something which I find rather well built in the novel. This was one of the things that I found delightful. The other, of course, were some moments of observations and insights, that I could relate with. In the end, I don't regret reading this book, because it provided me with an interesting insight about Michael Chabon's start and path as a writer. " The Mysteries of Pittsburgh", tough, is a book that I would not recommend easily and just to anybody. *** My first thirteen years, years of ecstatic, uncomfortable, and speechless curiosity, followed by six months of disaster and disappointment, convinced me somehow that every new friend came equipped with a terrific secret, which one day, deliberately, he would reveal; I need only maintain a discreet, adoring, and fearful silence. ========== I smoked and looked down at the bottom of Pittsburgh for a little while, watching the kids playing tiny baseball, the distant figures of dogs snatching at a little passing car, a miniature housewife on her back porch shaking out a snippet of red rug, and I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and to devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger. ========== I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. She has entered into her course of study, first of all, knowing full well that it can only lead to her becoming a French teacher, a very grim affair, the least of whose evils is poor pay, and the prospect of which should have been sufficient to send her straight into business or public relations. She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue. ========== Some compulsiveness inherited from my father, and also a kind of unnecessary delicacy, had always driven me to keep friends separate, to shun group excursions, but for this calm couple of weeks at the eye of the summer I felt free of the guilt that usually accompanied my juggling of friendships, and free of the sense of duplicity that went along with pushing the people I loved into separate corners of my life, and once in a while Phlox, Arthur, and I would eat our lunches on the same patch of grass. ========== Just then-at the very instant she turned a fairly calm face to me-all the cicadas in the trees went ape, who knows why, and their music was as loud and ugly as a thousand televisions tuned to the news. In Pittsburgh, even the cicadas are industrial. ========== I watched the door to my room remain firmly shut and ached for that return of everything to its previous condition which is the apology's false promise. ========== In any case, it is not love, but friendship, that truly eludes you.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Daniel Parsons

    "Some people really know how to have a good time" There are books that so (seemingly) effortlessly capture the world in which they are written that you feel you are living, breathing, and sharing the air with the characters. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's first novel and completed to fulfil his master's requirement at the age of twenty-four, is such a book. I lived all 240 glorious pages - and when I wasn't reading I was daydreaming and dreaming about Art Bechenstein's (the narrat "Some people really know how to have a good time" There are books that so (seemingly) effortlessly capture the world in which they are written that you feel you are living, breathing, and sharing the air with the characters. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's first novel and completed to fulfil his master's requirement at the age of twenty-four, is such a book. I lived all 240 glorious pages - and when I wasn't reading I was daydreaming and dreaming about Art Bechenstein's (the narrator's) experiences, and his wonderful friends. Art, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one day runs into Arthur at the library where he works. Over the course of an evening they quickly establish a friendship and Art finds himself in a strange new world that is exciting and fresh. Art's father is a gangster, something he is ashamed of and keeps secret. Art's mother was killed some years ago (how/why is one of the minor mysteries), and he has since been quite alienated, so the new attention he gets becomes addictive. Art soon finds himself in a relationship with Phlox (who he was introduced to by Arthur), a girl of questionable fashion sense who seems to think she's living in a French New Wave film, and in a possible courtship with Arthur, who is gay. Thrown into the mix is the charismatic and aptly mysterious Cleveland, a childhood friend of Arthur's, who is somehow connected with Art's father's dubious work. Chabon brilliantly and with stunning resonance writes , probably semi-autobiographically, about a wonderfully detailed Pittsburgh of run down apartments, luxurious hotels and enigmatic factories, into which a sexually confused young man stumbles, picks himself up, and strides headlong into the unknown. "There had been a time in high school, see, when I wrestled with the possibility that I might be gay, a tortuous six-month culmination of years of unpopularity and girllessness. At night I lay in bed and coolly informed myself that I was gay, and that I had better get used to it. The locker room became a place of torment, full of exposed male genitalia that seemed to taunt with my failure to avoid glancing at them, for a fraction of a second that might have seemed accidental, but was, I recognised, a bitter symptom of my perversion". Chabon's writing is right on the money, and there are paragraphs, passages and chapters that so conveyed some of my own experiences that I was often moved to tears, particularly in Art's dissecting of his friendships with Arthur and Cleveland; "He didn't say anything. Arthur, who was walking between us, turned to me, a look of mild annoyance on his face. I was surprised to note that apparently Cleveland hadn't told Arthur about my father. I felt a quick thrill when I saw that there was something between Cleveland and me that Arthur wasn't party to, something outside their friendship, and then, just as quickly, I felt sadness and even shame at the nature of that something. It was not what I wanted us to have in common." A sort-of 80's version of The Catcher in the Rye, crossed with the Lauren Ambrose indie film Swimming, this is one of the finest books I have read and will re-read again. Incidentally, the film version of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which unwisely combines the characters of Cleveland and Arthur as well as changes the poignant but not unhopeful ending, was a huge box office flop and, aside from the performances of a typically amazing Peter Sarsgaard and a decent Jon Foster, is not really worth watching. Pity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tfitoby

    I saw the awful adaptation of this book recently and was so impressed by the tone of the piece and what lay at the heart of the mess they made they I immediately decided that the book should be moved to the top of my to be read list. Now I can safely say that it was an adaptation in names and places only yet the tone and heart was lost in a different type of mess. Perhaps mess is too strong a word for describing the book, I just couldn't connect with it and didn't really care about what I was rea I saw the awful adaptation of this book recently and was so impressed by the tone of the piece and what lay at the heart of the mess they made they I immediately decided that the book should be moved to the top of my to be read list. Now I can safely say that it was an adaptation in names and places only yet the tone and heart was lost in a different type of mess. Perhaps mess is too strong a word for describing the book, I just couldn't connect with it and didn't really care about what I was reading. As with the start of the movie the opening chapters of the novel reminded me of the wonderful Zach Braff movie Garden State but that didn't last long, instead dragging up reminders of Jay McInerney's attempts from the 80s and perhaps if they'd adapted this in to a movie then, Michael J. Fox would have suited the role of Art like he didn't suit his character from Bright Lights, Big City. But I'm getting sidetracked. A symptom of reading this book I fear. Chabon creates some fascinating support for his protagonist, in Cleveland, Arthur and Phlox. All of which woud have been more interesting to read about for 240 pages than the black hole of personality and character that was Art Bechstein. The movie adaptation clearly spotted this, giving Cleveland much more screentime than even Art. What impressed me the most about Cleveland was his noir-like tendencies, he reminded me of the kind of man David Goodis or Georges Simenon in his roman durs might have written about. I hear Chabon is known for his use of urban locations as a character in his stories and in this book he does a fantastic job of evoking the power of 20th century architecture over the lives of his characters, The Cloud Factory especially so, working as the star around which everything and everyone orbits. I've previously read The Yiddish Policemen's Union from Chabon and this was definitely an easier and more pleasant read but I'm still to see what it is about him that gets people so excited.

  25. 3 out of 5

    Ben Carroll

    There's something bittersweet about delving into a favourite author's early work. It's pretty exciting to see how an author has grown over the years; what talents they always had, what weaknesses they have or haven't lost, which aspects were seeded long before they were developed. But on the other, more emotive and less rational, hand; what tainted greatness, how boringly humanising, how utterly demythologising. I mean, it's really comfortable to believe that greatness is something separate, inhe There's something bittersweet about delving into a favourite author's early work. It's pretty exciting to see how an author has grown over the years; what talents they always had, what weaknesses they have or haven't lost, which aspects were seeded long before they were developed. But on the other, more emotive and less rational, hand; what tainted greatness, how boringly humanising, how utterly demythologising. I mean, it's really comfortable to believe that greatness is something separate, inherent and unchanging; that it is emergent, changable and the outcome of (shudder) work is far more awkward. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a great example of this bubble-bursting, but an even better example of the growth of an author. For all it's weaknesses, it is still undeniably from the same hand as The Yiddish Policemen's Union and Kavalier & Clay (although I know there's people who don't agree with that). Thematically Pittsburgh is completely on-canon. It's almost a mission statement for the rest of his ouvre to date, complete with a nod to the world of genre in its hidden mafia background. The weaknesses mentioned are not thematic, they're in the prose and structure. Much of it is overwritten, and the cleverness is pushed too far forward. The structure feels somehow naive, complete with unsatisfying but overly-ended ending. 'But he was only 23 when he wrote it!', some might say. And while that is fantastically impressive, it's not an excuse. A lot of the novel's strength, its perfect render of the intensity of youth, are due to Chabon's age when writing it; if he gets the praise for age-related pros, he can take the criticism for age-related cons. 23 is not an excuse. My favourite thing about this novel is what's wrong with it. Unsatisfying structure and unwieldly prose? This is Chabon! Those are among his greatest strengths, in recent works. And greatness as the outcome of (shudder) work is not so bad after all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    I went to add this book and couldn't remember the title, in spite of having just finished it this month. That's a good approximation of my experience with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh--pretty forgettable. It's one of those moody books set in a roughly indiscriminate time period (it's clear from the text that it's supposed to be some point between 1980 and 1990, but the way it's written it could easily be 1920...or 50...or 72) that's primarily concerned with characterization and not really interes I went to add this book and couldn't remember the title, in spite of having just finished it this month. That's a good approximation of my experience with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh--pretty forgettable. It's one of those moody books set in a roughly indiscriminate time period (it's clear from the text that it's supposed to be some point between 1980 and 1990, but the way it's written it could easily be 1920...or 50...or 72) that's primarily concerned with characterization and not really interested in action or plot. And that's fine--who doesn't love a good character study?--but not really interesting in this case. The characters are slightly quirky but lack substance, and eventually you figure out that the main concern of the story is the protagonist's confused sexuality (which culminates with a haphazard homosexual relationship that doesn't really change anything about him, or his life, or anyone else's life...including the reader's). The end is an absolute anticlimax, but considering that the book is mostly flat this is neither surprising nor inappropriate. A book like this almost NEEDS an anticlimax, in fact--to suddenly drop some action in at the end would be totally incongruous and probably give the sedated reader a heart attack as a result. I had a lame writing instructor once who only ever said one useful thing: to make a story, something has to be at stake, some choice has to be made, and there's has to be a resulting change from it. In Pittsburgh, the choices are ambiguous (like the protag's sexuality, I guess...) and once made fail to change anything--at least, anything that counts. But if you're the kind of person who likes pointless, flowy novels that don't really go anywhere (or just like Chabon's style) then this might be all you. Unfortunately, it was not my bag.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Lidia Mascaró

    Holy hell.. Where to start? I picked this book out of a library shelf by pure coincidence; the only reason why it caught my eye was because I happened to be watching a television show at the time that was set in Pittsburgh. Flipping it around, I skimmed over the critiques and read "... it will find its place beside 'On the Road' and 'The Catcher in the Rye'". That's all it took for me to take it over to the cash register. Michael Chabon, what a genius. The way the book is written reminds you of j Holy hell.. Where to start? I picked this book out of a library shelf by pure coincidence; the only reason why it caught my eye was because I happened to be watching a television show at the time that was set in Pittsburgh. Flipping it around, I skimmed over the critiques and read "... it will find its place beside 'On the Road' and 'The Catcher in the Rye'". That's all it took for me to take it over to the cash register. Michael Chabon, what a genius. The way the book is written reminds you of just how much literature is one of the greatest forms of art. Which, speaking of art, what an interesting name for a main character. As usual, I'd like to quote many things from this book. Some are things that provide glimpses of each character and how screwed up they are, others are relatable quotes about life. I've decided against that, however, and instead I leave this very simple quote which, although isn't something you read and stand up to grab a pen to underline it, I find describes Art better than anything I could write about him: "Finally I reached into my pocket and flipped a quarter. Heads was Phlox, tails was Arthur. It came up heads. I called Arthur."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I don't know. I guess i'm not particularly taken by coming-of-age stories written from the p.o.v. of rich white kids. This doesn't imply that Art Bechstein's life had no conflict, but the Real characters in this book for me were Arthur & Cleveland. I felt really trapped behind Art's dribble ESPECIALLY as he describes his job at "Boardwalk Books" & i cringed with loathing during nearly every paragraph about his stupid girlfriends. This book was compared to A Catcher in the Rye , a book i I don't know. I guess i'm not particularly taken by coming-of-age stories written from the p.o.v. of rich white kids. This doesn't imply that Art Bechstein's life had no conflict, but the Real characters in this book for me were Arthur & Cleveland. I felt really trapped behind Art's dribble ESPECIALLY as he describes his job at "Boardwalk Books" & i cringed with loathing during nearly every paragraph about his stupid girlfriends. This book was compared to A Catcher in the Rye , a book i found equally forgettable for the same reasons. It was nice to see such a unique city described in a majestic way. The narrator's voice won me over with his description of female French students. This book was like knowing a neurotic spoiled rich kid who possessed a tad of charm. I understand why it received a lot of acclaim, it just wasn't written for my tastes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I absolutely loved this book and would have finished it within a day or two, had it not been for a spoiler I accidentally stumbled upon regarding a character death. Because of that, the last 50 or so pages took me ages to get through; I really didn't want that particular character to meet his end, though now that I think of it, there was a good amount of foreshadowing in the beginning and middle of the book. I grew up just outside Pittsburgh and am going to school here, so all of the places menti I absolutely loved this book and would have finished it within a day or two, had it not been for a spoiler I accidentally stumbled upon regarding a character death. Because of that, the last 50 or so pages took me ages to get through; I really didn't want that particular character to meet his end, though now that I think of it, there was a good amount of foreshadowing in the beginning and middle of the book. I grew up just outside Pittsburgh and am going to school here, so all of the places mentioned throughout the novel are very, very familiar to me, which made it extremely easy to put myself in the characters' shoes and made the book that much more enjoyable.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    An amazingly fast and fun coming-of-age novel about sex and friendship. Perhaps I speak in hindsight but it almost feels like Chabon is forcing himself to write Realist/Respectable Fiction instead of Good Fiction, and has to suppress his skills here and there. It's still an enriching and entertaining book.

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