Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Very middle of the road. Thus a solid three stars. The book was full of cliches about writers – substance abuse, sexual antics with co-workers and co-eds resulting in multiple marriages thus depicting the writer as a “hopeless romantic”, a Hunter Thompsonesque weekend with a gay man, a suicidal genius and a tuba (insert any three Fellini type items here).

At the heart of the book, a story about writers block and a seven year endeavor about a book going nowhere. Best friend as indulgent editor means the money kept pouring in without any product flowing out. And on, and on and on. The Talking Heads wrote a song about this book before it was written. It was called “The Road to Nowhere.”

Harsh words? Maybe so. But lately, I have been wondering what the Pulitzer committee is thinking because I have read a few books from prize winning authors and have been gravely disappointed. There were however a few things about the book I enjoyed and those salvaged the book from one star all the way back to three.

There is some beautifully written prose. Some sentences, some paragraphs. There were times I read and re-read those parts and just enjoyed basking in how good they were. Chabon uses some beautiful words that aren’t used often, if at all, in literature. Although that was done clunkily and unevenly, it was great fun as a vocabulary building exercise.

I also felt that at some point, this became a story. When that shift occurred, I was caught up in wanting to finish it even though I didn’t particularly like it. I wanted to finish it because I actually wanted to find out what was going to come of the characters. There really wasn’t one I cared about deeply or empathized with, it was more the idle curiosity of an onlooker than the active investigation of a participant.

I have another book of his sitting in the pile and I intend to read that one too. But I will give myself time between the books to give the next one a fair chance. I will cleanse my palate by reading a bunch of stuff completely unconnected and then return to Mr. Chabon, refreshed and hopefully untainted. I think this may be a book you either love or hate. I personally felt….meh.

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