Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

ISBN: 978-0-06-168757-0

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay wowed me when I read it. It was an interesting, genuine story that I felt was worthy of winning a major prize like the Pulitzer (it did--2001.) It was my introduction to Michael Chabon. I thought I had found a writer that I could rely on. Then I read Gentlemen of the Road and was thoroughly disappointed. In my opinion, it was boring.

But, because I loved Kav+Clay so much, I decided to give Chabon the benefit of the doubt and I bought this book. Unfortunately, I moved that week and it got lost in the shuffle (this was a good 6 years ago.)

I've since read and enjoyed Telegraph Avenue so I was excited when this one popped up. How couldn't I be: those are two quality books, right? GOTR was probably just an anomaly. 

No word of lie, I could barely get through the first 10 pages of this book. I must have had to reread it 3 times before finally trudging through.

Chabon was 24-years-old when he wrote this. It really seems like he is doing his best to impress. To say he comes off as pretentious is a bit generous. But, before you write this book off completely, let me just say that it does get better. Chabon does find a groove and is able to captivate as he is wont to do. But, geez, dude, where's the humility?

The book is your classic--if not unorthodox--coming-of-age story. Art Bechstein working at a bookstore after college, going about his days. His best friend Arthur had a best friend Cleveland and soon, they all become best friends. Art's father is a disapproving mobster (aren't they all?) whom Art is embarrassed of. Phlox is an acquaintance of Arthur's whom Art begins seeing casually before he falls in love with her. Cleveland is an alcoholic employed by the mob who is actually looking for trouble because nothing else in life gives him pleasure. 

Arthur happens to be gay and, early on, forecasts Art's venture into homosexuality after a thwarted come-on.

Art struggles with his sexuality, his life's purpose and his relationship with his father. It just seems more complicated for him than it does for everyone else. Don't get me wrong, I've had my fair share of issues. I guess they didn't all come and punch me in the face at the same time, though. Love is hard and life sucks (or vice versa,) we just hope that we can get by and we usually do, but that's because we aren't necessarily innondated with difficulties as is the protagonist's misfortune. 

It really seems like Chabon had to get over some jitters to write this book. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece by any means, but in the end, I liked it. I'd recommend it to anyone willing to put work in to get through the first couple of chapters. I'm more patient than I used to be--there's a chance I wouldn't have bothered with it a few years ago. Come to think of it, maybe I started it back before I moved. Whatever. I'm glad I read it and I'm glad Chabon continued working at his craft. He's good.

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