Chabon's first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), was published when he was 25 and catapulted him to literary celebrity. He followed it with a second novel, Wonder Boys (1995), and two short-story collections. In 2000, Chabon published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a critically acclaimed novel that John Leonard, in a 2007 review of a later novel, called Chabon's magnum opus. It received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 (see: 2001 in literature).
His novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union, an alternate history mystery novel, was published in 2007 to enthusiastic reviews and won the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards; his serialized novel Gentlemen of the Road appeared in book form in the fall of that same year. Chabon's most recent novel, Telegraph Avenue, published in 2012 and billed as "a twenty-first century Middlemarch", concerns the tangled lives of two families in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the year 2004.
His work is characterized by complex language, the frequent use of metaphor along with recurring themes, including nostalgia, divorce, abandonment, fatherhood, and most notably issues of Jewish identity. He often includes gay, bisexual, and Jewish characters in his work. Since the late 1990s, Chabon has written in an increasingly diverse series of styles for varied outlets; he is a notable defender of the merits of genre fiction and plot-driven fiction, and, along with novels, he has published screenplays, children's books, comics, and newspaper serials.
In 1987, Chabon married the poet Lollie Groth. After the publication of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, he was mistakenly featured in a Newsweek article on up-and-coming gay writers (Pittsburgh's protagonist has liaisons with people of both sexes.) The New York Times later reported that "in some ways, [Chabon] was happy" for the magazine's error, and quoted him as saying, "I feel very lucky about all of that. It really opened up a new readership to me, and a very loyal one." In a 2002 interview, Chabon added, "If Mysteries of Pittsburgh is about anything in terms of human sexuality and identity, it's that people can't be put into categories all that easily." In "On The Mysteries of Pittsburgh", an essay he wrote for the New York Review of Books in 2005, Chabon remarked on the autobiographical events that helped inspire his first novel: "I had slept with one man whom I loved, and learned to love another man so much that it would never have occurred to me to want to sleep with him."
According to Chabon, the popularity of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh had adverse effects; he later explained, "I was married at the time to someone else who was also a struggling writer, and the success created a gross imbalance in our careers, which was problematic." He and Groth divorced in 1991, and he married the writer Ayelet Waldman in 1993. They currently live together in Berkeley, California with their four children, Sophie (b. 1994), Ezekiel "Zeke" Napoleon Waldman (b. 1997), Ida-Rose (b. June 1, 2001), and Abraham Wolf Waldman (b. March 31, 2003). Chabon has said that the "creative free-flow" he has with Waldman inspired the relationship between Sammy Clay and Rosa Saks toward the end of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and in 2007, Entertainment Weekly declared the couple "a famous — and famously in love — writing pair, like Nick and Nora Charles with word processors and not so much booze."
In a 2012 interview with Guy Raz of Weekend All Things Considered Chabon said that he writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday. He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, "There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they're big, and they have a lot of words in them.... The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life."
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988) is a novel by American author Michael Chabon. The story is a coming-of-age tale set during the early 1980s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
It was Chabon's first novel, which he began writing as a 21-year-old undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. He continued to work on it during his studies (1985–87) in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English at the University of California, Irvine, where he submitted it as his thesis for the Master of Fine Arts degree. One of his advisors, the novelist MacDonald Harris, sent it to his literary agent. It was published in 1988 and became a bestseller.
A film adaptation—starring Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, and Nick Nolte—was released in 2009.
Art Bechstein is the son of a mob money launderer, who wants him to succeed in a legitimate career. When Art graduates from college, he has only a vague hope for a summer of adventure before he commits to the rest of his life. Bechstein almost immediately meets a charming young gay man, Arthur Lecomte, and his friend, a highly literate biker, Cleveland Arning, who become his partners in many summer adventures. Art begins a relationship with an insecure young woman named Phlox Lombardi. As Art's attraction to Arthur grows, it destabilizes both relationships and reveals he may be bisexual. Art is also troubled when Cleveland begins moving deeper into the city's organized crime families, drawing him closer to his father's dangerous Mafia connections. Art's relationships with his family, friends, and lovers become more and more entangled, causing a series of fallings out and unforeseen consequences.
The kid I wanted to find in college, played by Tobey Maguire in the film version of Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. Who couldn’t fall in love with a chronic lying, gay, rich, talented depressing fiction writer? --Blair Mastbaum
For whatever reason, I didn’t do much reading (at least not for pleasure) in high school or college. But the summer that I graduated from Wayne State, I found a copy of Chabon’s debut, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, in a bin at B. Dalton Booksellers for something like $1.98. I totally judged the book by its cover and took a chance on this is one. As they say, “it changed my life.” I have read this book more times than I can count, and passed it along or recommended to just as many people. When the movie adaptation came out in 2008, I actually did not rush out to see it. Unlike so many others where I’ve almost enjoyed the film more, or didn’t care that “liberties” had been taken, when I learned that the gay character of Arthur Lecomte had been completely excised from this movie adaptation by the writer-director of Dodgeball (!), I literally launched a boycott online urging fans of the novel NOT to go and see it. Shame on Michael Chabon for allowing such a thing to happen to the story that put him on the literary map! I could go on, but… --Frank Anthony Polito
I forget exactly why I picked up The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon initially, but I wasn’t fifty pages in before I was preparing to shelve it next to American Gods as a favorite novel—and this was before I knew one of the main characters was gay. Somehow I managed to go into this story so cold that I discovered Sammy’s orientation right along with him, which is a gift I’ll always cherish. (I realize I’ve just ruined it for anyone reading this who didn’t know. Ah. Sorry!) But the Sammy’s sexual journey is just one facet of the novel. It’s set in the period around the second World War, and overall it is a story of loss and change and growth. Not growing up, exactly. Just growth. Growth of a country, of the comic book industry, of men, of families. Loss of innocence, loss of love, of life. There are missed opportunities and opportunities made out of sorrow. The book is just so big I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a rich tapestry of lives and character and hope built out of great loss. It’s also flat-out a wonderful novel about men. --Heidi Cullinan
The characters in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon are so real, so touching, and so heartbreaking. I get all verklempt just thinking about it. --Astrid AmaraFurther Readings:
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 5, 2005)
Amazon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
The enthralling debut from bestselling novelistMichael Chabon is a penetrating narrative of complexfriendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young man’s sexualidentity. Chabon masterfully renders the funny,tender, and captivating first-person narrative of Art Bechstein,whose confusion and heartache echo the tones of literary forebears like The Catcher in the Rye’s HoldenCaulfield and The Great Gatsby’s NickCarraway. TheMysteries of Pittsburgh incontrovertibly established Chabonas a powerful force in contemporary fiction, even before his PulitzerPrize-winning novel The AmazingAdventures of Kavalier & Clay set theliterary world spinning. An unforgettable story of coming of age in America, itis also an essential milestone in the movement of American fiction, from anovelist who has become one of the most important and enduring voices of thisgeneration.
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