Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys

by Michael Chabon


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A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart. All those who love Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay will find the same elegant imagination, bold humor, and undeniable warmth at work in Wonder Boys.

“[A] wise, wildly funny story . . . Chabon is a flat-out wonderful writer– evocative and inventive, pointed and poignant.”
–Chicago Tribune

“Whether making us laugh or making us feel the breathtaking impermanence of things, Michael Chabon keeps us wide awake and reading.”
–All Things Considered

“Beguiling and wickedly smart . . . There is first-rate satirical farce in Chabon’s novel but essentially it is something rarer: satirical comedy.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780517198810
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/15/1998

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Summerland (a novel for children), The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Gentlemen of the Road, as well as the short story collections A Model World and Werewolves in Their Youth and the essay collections Maps and Legends and Manhood for Amateurs. He is the chairman of the board of the MacDowell Colony. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.


Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

May 24, 1963

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

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Wonder Boys 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon presents a story that all people can enjoy. The aging hipsters of American society will enjoy the character of Grady Tripp, the pot-smoking hack writer who is constantly trying to figure out how his life ended up the way it did, swirling quickly down the toilet. The bitter disaffectionate youth will enjoy the struggles of James Leer, a minor kleptomaniac and aspiring writer, and the cynical citizens of American's population will enjoy Terry Crabtree, who realizes that romatic love is a joke and that happiness is related to job standing. The Wonder Boys has as many fascinating characters as America has fascinating people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Wonder Boys' is about Grady Tripp, a middle-age English professor and novelist who should have grown up long ago. I like the book because I can relate to Grady Tripp's plight. He needs to ditch the drugs and take responsibility for himself. As always, the book is better than the movie. All we see in the movie version of 'Wonder Boys' is an aging writer smoking dope for seemingly no reason at all. But in the book, readers explore the dank depths of Grady Tripp's depraved existence. The pot becomes not the focus of the story, but a symptom of Grady Tripp's larger problem-- a youth slipping quickly away. If you have $20 to spend, this could be a good way to do it. Great for weed heads trying to quit, out-of-work writers and anyone going through a mid-life crisis.
tim8160 More than 1 year ago
Well written and doesn't have a total 'downer' ending like so many critically well received books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rich and engaging. Chabon can weave a story while offering insightful paragraphs that often need to be savored twice.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
On the surface, Grady Tripp is probably one of the most loathsome individuals I have ever read about in literature—he’s spent seven years on a 2,611 page monstrosity that has gone absolutely nowhere and like his life meandered everywhere, he’s come to the dissolution of his third marriage, he’s carried on an affair for about five years with the married chancellor who is now carrying his child, he’s smoked an entire football field of weed, and yet he can’t seem to cut himself off, and he harbors a certain amount of jealousy for James Leer, a student of his who has managed to finish his novel, while he has not—and yet I liked him anyway, and I couldn’t wait to see what crisis he would manage to find himself in the middle of next. He’s a train wreck, but he’s a somewhat loveable train wreck all the same, because he recognizes that he’s a complete and utter mess, and he has little, if any, hope for redemption. This novel works, because Grady Tripp has a heart. He’s a man filled with misguided direction and false hope, and yet he still continues to go forth and attempt to conquer the world. He may have flushed seven years of his life down the toilet working on a novel that even he knows doesn’t really work, but he still believes there’s an ending out there somewhere for it, and all he has to do is find it. Like the main character, the prose of WONDER BOYS is both elegant and disturbing, and it’s a beautiful read from the first page to the last. And I enjoyed every single minute of it. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
ctothep More than 1 year ago
Seriously, I think there is no greater compliment to a writer than reading a book in one sitting. Bravo!
Aglaia More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favourite books. I must admit I started with the movie, which is usually a bad idea (not in this case though), and bought the book a few years later. I finished it within a few days, and absolutely loved every bit of it.The style is refined, but not pompous,and very straightforward. The characters are unforgettable, and come alive without exception. I loved the dry humor of the novel, and I also appreciated the fact that it still remains very human. You can see, feel, touch the connection among the characters. It has a very real feel to it, and yet utterly absurd. I very highly recommend this novel.
sweetdog More than 1 year ago
Another Michael Chabon that I thoroughly enjoyed. I could not put it down. It is an easy read. The characters are unique. The storyline is quirky. I am truly a Michael Chabon fan now.
JH_Climber More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon's amusing and insightful novel Wonderboys concerns an aging novelist, Grady Tripp (also the narrator), whose life and 2,600 page novel are quickly spinning onward without him. Other important characters include Grady¿s long-time agent, Terry Crabtree, and Grady¿s most gifted and troubled student, James Leer. The novel is divided into parts, of varying length, that move fluidly between present actions, the past, and what it means to be a writer. It is funny, sad, and bizarre in so many ways, but it does seem to capture some of the ethos of writing and reading literature.
Joan-Grace More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon is a master of character development and has captured the angst and depression of Grady Tripp, the main character. Grady is suffering from writers block and the situations in which he finds himself are at once hilarious and tragic.
Archren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To the extent that ¿Wonder Boys¿ has a plot, it is that Grady Tripp is in trouble. Not any dire peril, mind you, just the trouble middle-aged people may find themselves in when they¿ve been reckless in their personal and professional lives. His wife is leaving him, his mistress (married to a colleague) is pregnant, and his second novel (to follow his critically-acclaimed first novel) is due and has been due for years. He¿s also saddled by a student of his going through his own period of intense angst, and is fending off the amorous advances of another student. Considering that he describes himself as fat and unattractive and that he constantly comes across as whiny, it¿s amazing that any of these people ever had anything to do with him. Over the weekend where everything comes to a head, Tripp¿s basic reaction to all of this is to smoke as much pot as possible and run around hoping that his problems won¿t catch up with him. They eventually do, of course, at which point everything wraps up ridiculously quickly and neatly. It all has to do with the pages of his unfinished novel blowing away and his finally leaving behind the tuba case dumped on him by the transsexual friend-of-a-friend to whom he gave a ride in the early chapters. It¿s that kind of literary novel. We¿re not here for the plot, we¿re here for the literary prose (excellent), the character study (presumably excellent, but gosh I don¿t want to know this person) and the obscure symbolism (did I mention the dead dog?) The literary quality is phenomenal. I think that the biggest continuity problem in the whole book is the fact that it¿s written in the first person. If this guy can create beautiful metaphors such as ¿I tried to wire myself into the armillary sphere of their family life,¿ why is he essentially a failed novelist? Basically, on the strength of his narration, you have trouble reconciling the fact that he¿s so fundamentally a loser. Still, this book is an amazing illustration of literary quality. If it also reminds me that it¿s not worth it to read about whiny loser protagonists in books with no plot unless the prose style is terrifically first rate, let that simply be a higher recommendation for the literature fan.
sunnyd13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I thoroughly enjoyed it, this is my least favorite Chabon book. It meanders quite a bit. In any case, it features one of my favorite settings... Pittsburgh.
rosencrantz79 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wish I had encountered this book before I saw the movie adaptation--which turns out to be surprisingly faithful. Sadly, just as Jack Nicholson will forever be, like it or not, the person whose face I picture when I read The Shining, Michael Douglas and Frances McDormand kept stealing into my brain as I read Michael Chabon's excellent book. Not that I don't love these actors, but I prefer to come to a book half-blind and able to conjure up faces and landscapes, overcoats and sidewalks from just the clues the author provides. As for Chabon's prose, he has a knack for inventing memorable characters, turns of phrase, and unexpected images. My only beef? While his similes are fantastic, he relies too much on them sometimes.
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chabon's best. A sprawling, stumbling, hilarious jaunt. Much better than the movie. Full of incredibly memorable characters and stories. It doesn't hurt that the prose is fascinating.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first time I tried reading this novel--thrust upon me with great exhaltation by a writer-friend--I flipped through a dozen pages and then gave up. The time wasn't right.This time I read it in its entirety in two sittings. Grady Tripp is such a colossal plane crash of humanity that it's impossible to look away, even as Chabon continues to pull charred limbs and dismembered teddy bears out of his past. Tripp, bluntly, is unlikeable: a philandering, hopeless pothead with minor literary genius long since spent. His sidekick-cum-editor, Terry Crabtree, is barely better, an opportunistic hedonist wreckless with the psyches of others. Not that hedonism is a given evil, but in "Wonder Boys" Chabon makes it flinch-worthy; Tripp doesn't even bother keeping an eye on his libido. Anything just kind of goes."Wonder Boys" is a yarn of Tripp and Crabtree's weekend at a literary festival at Tripp's college (he is, somewhat inexplicably, a professor, based on a long-ago string of novels--he can't write anything now to save his life). The narrative spins out in a blur of molested youth, drugs, the combination of the two, and their mostly unpleasant after-effects. It's enough to make the reader feel hungover and queasy.In between these groggy episodes are some good reading. Tripp's run-ins (they don't end well) with pets are slapsticky hijinx, but ultimately hilarious. His perhaps ill-advised impulse trip to his in-laws' homestead at Passover to (maybe?) try to save his imploding, farcical marriage (his mistress is pregnant) is a tapestry of misfit individuals and neuroses--perhaps the highlight of the novel.Chabon leaves me feeling sticky and confused at the end. It's like sitting in a bar during daylight hours: I can only see the stench and the dirtiness and feel the throbbing headache, while the characters are the ones who got to have all the fun.
bkwriter4life on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
of Grady¿s students, James Leer, is a shy and quiet boy who is obsessed with moving pictures, and almost kills himself but Grady stops him. From then on, James, Grady, and Terry are involved in wicked shenanigans from beginning to end.Essentially, these three men are a couple of ¿wonder boys¿ because they survive the crazy weekend during WordFest. Michael Chabon¿s writing is humorous, witty, melancholy, and uplifting. You go through a rollercoaster of emotions through the novel; the mix is blended seamlessly.This is an enjoyable book for folks who enjoy good writing, non-writers, and writers.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this is the best story of mid-life absurdity I have read. Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors, and although this is not my favorite of his novels, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
the_dragonfly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I recently saw the movie for the first time, and fell head over heels in love with it. I knew I had to read the book as well, and have fallen in love all over again. A quick comparison of the two results only in the conclusion that both are pretty brilliant and well worthy of attention--there are certainly differences in plot and character (the plot in particular deviates entirely from the book about halfway through), but each version works beautifully within its own medium. Considered completely on its own merit--as it should be--this book sucks us into the sensibilities of a man whom we shouldn't like, but do--a man making a series of poor choices alongside pretty deeply flawed individuals whom we also insensibly like. It's a novel that should be quite tragic, and I think the undercurrent of sadness certainly becomes more visible toward the end of the twisted-weekend storyline. But the book is funny--at times laugh-out-loud funny--and all the more credible for it. And it's worth the ride for the beautiful prose alone. I think I'll soon be making a trip to the "Fiction C" section of my local library.
HotWolfie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love novels where the lead character isn't perfect. In "Wonder Boys" the lead (Prof. Tripp) is a licentious, scatter brained, aging pothead, who is going through a decade long emotional and professional rut. Along his journey he deals with a suicidal compulsive liar, a decaying friendship, the women in his love life, and his professional failings. It's an enjoyable dark comedy and coming of age story (second coming of age for Prof. Tripp). The plot does jump around (roadtrip style), but I thought Chabon handled the technique well and never lost sight of the main story.
elissajanine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked the opening, loved the seder scenes with Emily Warshaw's family, thought the ending went on far too long and unbelievably, couldn't understand why anyone would ever be attracted to the main character, thought the last couple of lines were lovely.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonder Boys was a pleasure to read once I actually sat down to read it. The story is written from the point of view of aging, graying, heavy-weighted, writer/professor Grady Tripp but it's really about his writing student, James Leer. James is a young, quiet, skinny, troubled, yet talented writing student who is obsessed with Hollywood suicides. Almost like a party trick he can recite style of suicide along with date of death and no one finds this strange. Somehow Leer and Grady become involved in a couple of crimes together and the rest of Wonder Boys is their journey in search of redemption and sanity. Michael Chabon's style of writing is eloquent with a bite of sarcasm. Humor and sadness hold hands on nearly every page.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So even though the one and only Chabon novel I¿d read up to now was a choked mish-mash of styles and genres, I liked the actual writing well enough to try another one. Maybe working to a plot isn¿t Chabon¿s strength. I¿ve seen it before with other authors; presented with an outcome they must produce, they lose it and flail all over the place. Given a purview that only requires them to weave a story without a goal, they do much better. I think Chabon falls into this class of writer.This is the story of a weekend in the life of Professor Grady Tripp; washed up writer, inveterate pot smoker, serial husband, cheater and grand procrastinator. We¿re dropped into the action with the distinct feeling that nothing we¿re told or shown is in any way out of the ordinary. Weekends involving attempted suicides, stolen memorabilia, mistress pregnancies, dead dogs, drag queens, divorce proceedings, lost 7-year manuscripts, and tubas are what pass for normal in the life of Grady Tripp.Given an array of options like that, Chabon does an admirable job of staying focused. It could have turned circus-like and disjointed easily, but didn¿t. He does this by homing in on Grady and his interactions instead of giving us a view of Grady through others. Although I¿d like to have been shown exactly why people hang around with this loser, it would have diluted the story too much. By focusing on Grady from his own perspective, we get a sense of the man as he perceives himself. It is distorted, not only by a person¿s natural inability to see himself clearly, but also by his pot-addled brain. No wonder Grady can¿t finish anything. He¿s stoned almost 24/7. He thinks he¿s going along through life, greased, slipping through the world unnoticed, ineffectual. He thinks his actions don¿t resonate with others as much as they do for him. It¿s only when others become disruptive; like little dams along the stream of his life that he really interacts with them. And he can only do so by enveloping himself in a cloak of marijuana. Now, after years of bumbling non-production are the consequences coming home. The promised and much lauded masterpiece is still unfinished and he believes that somehow during this weekend, he will choose one of the five endings he has written and be able to present his visiting editor with a finished product. He also believes he can reclaim his recently decamped wife Emily, keep the status quo with his mistress Sara, rescue his student James from self-destruction and hang onto his misspent youth. Deluded is not a strong enough term for what Grady is.The writing is excellent. Chabon finds just the right words and has some brilliant turns of phrase. Good timing and punch lines made me laugh out loud a few times. What could have been a complete downer of a story is lifted by this and made light. He gives us a proper ending, but somehow I got the impression that it wasn¿t going to stick. That Grady would never straighten himself out. Thinking of him shambling about in this same way when he¿s 50 or 60 could be a sorry thing indeed, if Grady didn¿t see it as negative. He seems accepting of his shortcomings and fine with the fact that he doesn¿t really control his own life. He¿ll continue to churn out half-realized novels and think he¿s using his time wisely. What the hell, if it works for him. He doesn¿t have to know he¿s an endless source of amusement and instruction.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In another writer's hands, all the wacky hijinks might have distracted from the main plot, but Chabon knows how to add humor AND make it relevant to the storyline. The characters were imaginative but believable and the way the plot unfolded felt just right.
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story ostensibly centres on Prof Grady Tripp's attempts at completing his increasingly out of control follow up novel of the title, Wonder Boys; yet as is not surprising with Michael Chabon, as well as an interesting plot, it is very much about characters and relationships. Central here, in addition to Grady himself, are his editor Terry Crabtree and young student James Lear, something of a loner, as well as host of other divers characters including Grady's pregnant mistress, an adoring female student, a transvestite, a dead dog and a tuba. The real beauty of the novel is the interaction between the various characters. Grady and carefree drug reliant Crabtree are long standing friends and this clearly comes through. Crabtree has a crush on the Grady¿s mysterious student, the unreliable James; Grady's beautiful student tenant has a crush on him; and Grady's third marriage is coming to an end while he pursues his mistress, the college Chancellor. His failing marriage does not prevent visiting his wife¿s family for Thanksgiving, and taking along James. The relationship between Grady and James is particularly well drawn; while seemingly a little detached from James, it is clear from Grady's actions and the superbly written lengthy dialogues between the two that Grady cares about James.No one comes out of this shining, the individual characters do have their redeeming features, it would be a mistake to right them off as insincere, and one cannot help be drawn to these people for all their human failings. Wonder Boys is very funny, enjoyable and at times moving, but above all it is the beauty of Chabon's writing that makes it an absolute must read. If you¿ve seen the film you must read the book, there are, not surprisingly, differences.
SimoneA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonder Boys has a very unlikable main character! Grady Tripp is a middle-aged, cheating, weed-smoking writer, who can't seem to finish his 2000-page book. And somehow he doesn't seem to mind any of these things. After the first few chapters, I didn't think I would even finish the book because of that. But then, somehow, I started to enjoy reading the book, and I think this is all because of the great writing style of Michael Chabon. I like all the books I've read by him so far, even though the genres may not be my thing. So, again, he gets away with writing a book about something I don't like and making it better. If you don't have one of the above characteristics, or are not a big Chabon fan, don't read this book. If you do, read this book, and you won't be disappointed!