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Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys

Written by Michael Chabon

Narrated by David Colacci


Wonder Boys

Written by Michael Chabon

Narrated by David Colacci

ratings:
4/5 (67 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Released:
Oct 15, 2013
ISBN:
9781480573321
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Chabon's extraordinary story of one turbulent weekend in the life of a struggling writer, a satire of the permanent adolescence of the creative class

A wildly successful first novel made Grady Tripp a young star, and seven years later he still hasn't grown up. He's now a writing professor in Pittsburgh, plummeting through middle age, stuck with an unfinishable manuscript, an estranged wife, a pregnant girlfriend, and a talented but deeply disturbed student named James Leer. During one lost weekend at a writing festival with Leer and debauched editor Terry Crabtree, Tripp must finally confront the wreckage made of his past decisions.


Mordant but humane, Wonder Boys features characters as loveably flawed as any in American fiction.

Released:
Oct 15, 2013
ISBN:
9781480573321
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of seven novels – including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union – two collections of short stories, and one other work of non-fiction. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and children.


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Reviews

What people think about Wonder Boys

3.9
67 ratings / 53 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    I first read Chabon when his The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was nominated for a sf award, but I think I might have seen the film adaptation of Wonder Boys before that. What am I saying? I have spreadsheets containing this information. I can check… So: I watched Wonder Boys on 4 June 2001 and read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union on 15 March 2008. I did indeed watch the film before reading any of Chabon’s novels. Anyway, having now read Wonder Boys, I want to rewatch the film. Argh. The one thing that struck while reading the book was that most of the film’s cast had been badly-chosen. The narrator is a failed writer of GRRM-proportions who teaches creative writing at a Pittsburgh university. He was played by Michael Douglas. His gay agent was played by Robert Downey Jr. And troubled student James Leer was played by Tobey Maguire. None of them really fit the characters has portrayed in the novel. Which is basically about a weekend at the university during a writing festival, in which the narrator’s wife leaves him, his lover, the chancellor, tells him she’s pregnant, Leer steals the chancellor’s husband’s prize possession, a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe and shoots their dog, and… well, shit happens, in that sort of slowly inevitable One Foot in the Grave way that ends up in farce. And overshadowing it all is the narrator’s current WIP, which shares the novel’s title, and which he has been working on for seven years, has grown to gargantuan proportions and he will likely never ever finish. Literary professors/authors whose lives are slowly, and comically, unravelling is pretty much a genre on its own, and is seen by many as emblematic of literary fiction as a whole. I disagree, of course. The only people who think lit fic is all middle-class professors lusting after nubile students, disappearing into a bottle, failing to finish their magnum opus, etc, are the people who generally only read genre and almost certainly have not read widely in literary fiction/literature. I’m still not sure what to make of Chabon’s work – this novel is a bit of a bloated cliché and he has a tendency to drop the odd bit of over-writing into his prose, but there’s a curious personality that shines through, one that’s keen to experiment with the stories he tells, and there’s something very likeble about that.
  • (5/5)
    Again, this is Chabon, one of the greatest writers of fiction there ever was..He writes effortlessly but what insight and how he makes us engage..excellent!
  • (4/5)
    I still remember sitting down with this book for the first time, excited and thrilled, knowing only that I was readying another book from the author of Cavalier and Clay. Swaying back and forth over the first hundred pages, one second entranced and the next revolted, hating the main character and yet captivated by this train wreck of a man, until eventually I quit battling against the incessant pull of this book and just dove in. Of course, this novel delves in Chabon's prodigious vocabulary, and occasionally lingers almost too long over simple moments, but these are the traits Chabon's work which either draws you deeper into the story or repels you, but for myself the luxurious language intoxicates rather than disgust.
  • (3/5)
    Well, the third reading of this book left me less impressed than the first two. I don't know if it's changing times, or age, or what, but this time Grady Tripp REALLY annoyed me. It especially annoyed me that he stole somebody's tuba, hauled it around in the rain, and then abandoned it. I just kept thinking of some poor musician, arriving in Pittsburgh for a gig only to find that there's no trace of his tuba because some pothead has stolen it and driven it around for several days before leaving it on the street to get ruined. I'm pretty sure I found that absurdly hilarious the first time I read it, so I might have matured a little since then.

    Anyway, it also bothered me this time that in all the driving around and the huge cast of characters, nothing really happens. Or actually, a lot of things happen, but they have no relationship to anything else that happens. I never got any real sense of any of the other characters--why is James so weird? What happened to Hannah? What would ever interest Sara or Emily about a person like Grady? And why does Grady seem so much older than 41? But at least it doesn't end the way the movie does; the ending of the movie drove me UP THE WALL. All I can imagine is that some test audience wanted a happier ending than the book seems to have.

    I guess the previous two times I read this book and loved it I was in a different state of mind, with different opinions of what makes a good book. I still liked it well enough to read it three times, though. That must mean something, right?
  • (5/5)
    Chabon is a National Treasure. Read everything he has written.
  • (5/5)
    the story of a weekend lit fest and all the shit that can be crammed into it. There's a dead dog, a transvestite, angry writers, and more.
  • (3/5)
    "All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure."The book's hero, Grady Tripp, is a forty-ish novelist and married writing teacher at a Pittsburgh college. Grady had some moderate success as a writer in the past but has spent the last seven years struggling to finish a 2000+ page magnum-opus called "Wonder Boys" because he basically has no idea how to end it. Grady lacks discipline, is always looking for an easy fix and as such his life is spiralling out of control caught up in a triumvirate of drugs, booze and love affairs. He is regularly either drunk or stoned, he is cheating on his third wife, Emily, with the college chancellor, Sara Gaskell, whose husband, Walter, is the chairman of the English department.Most of the story takes place over the course of one long chaotic weekend when Grady's long-time editor, Terry Crabtree, arrives in town to attend a literary festival called Wordfest. Grady takes Crabtree carousing in the hope of conning him into believing that his novel, for which he has been paid a hefty advance. is almost finished. Over the course of the weekend Grady finds out that Sara is pregnant, and after a series of bizarre scrapes involving amongst other things, a transvestite, an Alaskan malamute, a boa constrictor and a tuba virtually loses everything including his life.On the face of it Grady Tripp doesn't seem like a particularly appealing hero but I ended up almost feeling sorry for him. He can't bear growing older, in losing the sense that he is the next 'wunderkind' to hit the literary world, he hates being seen as a 'senior' role model, he wants to cling on to his youthful extravagances for as long as he can. In that I can see myself and many other middle-aged men. Grady's lovers even appear to encourage his wild extravagances rather than try to curtail them. Perhaps because it was that wild abandon that attracted him to them or perhaps he has become a sort of surrogate for their own middle-ages. "It's always been hard for me to tell the difference between denial and what used to be known as hope.""Wonder Boys" is filled with memorable lines and images. Grady is an interesting literary character, thoughtless rather than outwardly cruel, equally I can recognise many of his hopes and fears, his flaws and foibles. Now whilst I didn't actually laugh out loud it did at least make me smile on more than one occasion. However, that all said and done I found this book little more than a series of 'shaggy dog stories' and therefore an OK piece of escapism rather than a great one. Chabon is certainly an author whose works that I will keep an eye out for in the future."I'm a man who falls in love so easily . . . that from the very first instant of entering into a marriage I become, almost by definition, an adulterer. I've run through three marriages now, and each time the dissolution was my own fault, clearly and incontrovertibly."
  • (3/5)
    Good writing as usual, just not as gripping as his later stuff
  • (2/5)
    I am reading this book for my book club.When reading a book for a book club, I always think of the person who suggested it and ask myself,why did they like this book? I wasn't a great fan of this novel, finding both the story and main characters tedious and obnoxious. However, this being said, I do applaud Michael Chabon's ability to create characters so devoid of any redeeming qualities, that the reader is naturally compelled to continue the story to see what is the end result. The story line wavered between the believable and unbelievable. Mr. Chabon's use of pragmatic prose enhanced the story's credibility. But the 'madcap' adventures shared by the protagonist, as well as his writing slump of 7 years (and 2000 pages) pushed the boundaries for me.I didn't like the story and would not recommend it to anyone but that is based on storyline alone. In terms of author's ability as a writer and story-teller, then yes, the novel is worth reading.
  • (5/5)
    Here's a story that I experienced the movie version first. I loved the movie, each and every time I have watched it. The book is very good and easier to keep up with the story's pot smoking (puff for puff) than it has been for me and the movie.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (2/5)
    Saw the movie, read the book, needed to read a review to remember some of the plot, didn't jog a memory of entertainment or wonder at either movie or book. I guess it was ok.
  • (3/5)
    17 of 75 for 2015. It took me a while to get through Chabon's book. He comes highly recommended, so I was looking forward to this, but I found myself slogging through lots of marijuana enduced paranoia, sleepless nights, and all the things I don't like about academia. Grady Tripp is a trainwreck waiting to happen, who somehow manages to slide through the worst things life can throw at him--most of which are of his own creation. Not a book I'd care to pick up for a second read, although it is well enough written that I kept after it till I finished the whole thing, which puts it above Kathryn Ann Porter's Ship of Fools which I just couldn't bring myself to read. Curiously, the opinion of two different readers of Tripp's magnum opus, which gives its name to Chabon's novel, is I read enough of it. Well I read the whole thing. And now it's over.
  • (3/5)
    I swore, after reading Herzog, that I would never read another novel about middle-aged academics in crisis. However, by the time that I figured out that the middle-aged academic narrator of Wonder Boys was in crisis, I couldn't put the book down because I had to find out what happened to the tuba.I'm really glad I couldn't put this down because this turned out to be a great Passover novel. Will the first-borns be saved? Will Tripp (the middle-aged academic) be able to stop wondering around the wastelands of Pittsburgh? Will he be able to give up the flesh-pots of Egypt for the hope of life in the promised land? Those are the questions that keep the novel moving forward. In addition, there is a scene with a Seder that was one of the funniest things I've read in a long time (and I've been to some amusing Seders in my time,)
  • (5/5)
    This is one of those books in which I experienced the movie first. In fact, I don't think I was even aware of the book before seeing "based on" in the film's credits. Picked up the book at a used/wholesale book store some time afterwards, and have been sitting on it since. As I am currently trying my best to focus on my many owned but unread books, figured it was past time to give this one a go.And I enjoyed it as much as I did the movie. There is something, to me, about reading about other writers and their struggles, be they real or fictional. When dealing with my own perceived inadequacies, it's nice to know that other writers go through that as well. There are times I feel like I should just let go of some of my older projects instead of continuously holding on to them in the hope that they finally lead somewhere.There is just so much going on in this story. There's Tripp and his seven year attempt at a novel that still has no end in sight, his oldest friend Crabtree who enjoys a good time even with the looming specter of possible unemployment, Tripp's estranged wife who has left right as the novel opens, his female student slash tenant with a massive crush on him, his Holden Caulfield wannabe student with problems, his mistress who also happens to be the Chancellor of his school, her husband who also happens to be Dean of his department, and their blind dog with homicidal tendencies towards Tripp. Put 'em all in the same pot and watch them stew, bring to a boil.I did try to remember the movie as I read, and certain parts did come back, but it's been so long since I've seen it that it's hard to remember everything, along with what may or may not have changed. About halfway through this read, I went and picked up a copy of the movie on DVD, as the desire to rewatch it grew stronger as I read.
  • (5/5)
    Pitch. Perfect. Novel. Not just a good novel, but the first to crack in to my top 10 in a long time. HIGHLY recommended.
  • (3/5)
    Chabon writes like a handful of drugs. And gives the reader a hangover.

    But every writer one day must record the night terrors: writing courses, workshops, editors, seminars, and the novel that won't finish. Along with the effluvia of life: ex-wives, dead dogs, Passover, pregnancy, transvestites, and young writer-groupies.
  • (5/5)
    So you know that bit of Chekhovian wisdom about the gun? It occurred to me over and over again throughout the reading of this book. Every element Chabon inserted into this story goes off sooner or later in one way or another, including the boa constrictor. I can’t say that the progression of the plot is predictable, but I want to say something almost like that and in the most positive way; a page and a half before every new tragedy in the inexorably unraveling life of Grady Tripp you can begin to see something coming, you can watch how Chabon’s facsimile of fate and chance conspire to bring about one travesty after another. It’s a virtuoso performance of plot-craft. But, as I’ve discovered over and over in Chabon’s writing, the real gem isn’t the plot (though it’s impeccable), it isn’t the prose (though it’s beautiful), it isn’t concept (though it’s interesting), it’s his characters. Now, I’m not normally a reader who loves literature for the characters most of all, and I tend to read with disbelief only partially suspended, but Chabon’s characters become real to me. I audibly gasp, I laugh out loud, my jaw literally drops; I read portions of this book pacing in my kitchen with my wife occasionally asking if everything was okay, and me wanting to answer “how could it be, with all that stuff in Grady’s trunk?!” It doesn’t even matter that Grady kind of sucks, that he’s a terrible person; I still feel for the guy, still root for him. This book is highly recommended to that kind of reader whose reading is a symptom of a half-smothered, stillborn, frustrated ambition to write. I know you’re out there.
  • (5/5)
    This novel was simply excellent. I thought long and hard about how else I would describe it, but excellent is what I kept coming back to. Some stories excel with plot, others with the characters, and others with the beautiful writing; this novel has all three in spades.

    First, to the plot. One of the first things writers are told they must do with their stories is keep ratcheting up the tension until the climax. Some writers do this well, while others get distracted by some scene they've conjured up in their head and simply cannot let it go, despite the fact that it meanders and bores the reader. Chabon here takes an incredible situation and just keeps making it more and more tense until its inevitable release. There is honestly not a single scene I would have changed or altered, because all of it works so marvelously to keep the pace of the novel moving. And beyond tension inducing, the plot is absolutely hilarious. Tubas, blind dogs, a manuscript thousands of pages long, a man with an invented and entirely fictional backstory as a jockey...all of this dots Chabon's landscape. I was constantly wondering how in the heck this series of insanely funny events was all going to resolve itself, and when it did, it felt perfect.

    And then there's the characters of Grady Tripp, James Leer and Terry Crabtree. Grady Tripp is perhaps the best self destructive protagonist I have ever encountered. Grady smokes too much pot, makes incredibly questionable decisions on a near constant basis, is practically never sorry for the end results of these decisions and is almost always making excuses for himself. At the same time, Chabon makes you feel sympathetic for Grady, and when things quickly unravel, you somehow feel sorry for him. I recall several times thinking that if I ever knew Grady Tripp in real life, I would judge him harshly for his wasting of every chance and for his impossible pursuit of his id's every desire. But somehow, you just can't help but root for the guy. James Leer is another terrifically conceived character; his obsession with Hollywood, his inability to tell the truth, his talent (or lack thereof?), and his attention seeking behavior while simultaneously trying to avoid the limelight all make for a complex and deep person. Finally, Terry Crabtree, a mischievous man with a love-hate relationship with Grady, rounds out a trio of excellent subjects. The women of the novel are likewise wonderful, but perhaps because they are not nearly as driven to reckless stupidity I didn't find them nearly as entertaining.

    Finally, the writing is some of the best prose I've read in awhile. I may have driven my Goodreads friends a little crazy over the last few weeks with the sheer number of quotes I've noted from the book, but I was struck by how Chabon was always able to find just the right words to describe the situation or convey the sentiment in a way to make my heart soar or plummet.

    In short, for me this was a masterpiece. A hilarious romp through one crazy weekend with unforgettable characters and wonderful prose, I think that I'll stick with my word of praise for the novel: excellent.
  • (1/5)
    Extremely disappointing. I really enjoyed The Yiddish Policemen Union and Kavalier & Clay, and had high expectations for Wonder Boys. Unfortunately, the book didn't deliver. It's supposed to be a satire, but the prose tries too hard. Sentences are belabored, even more convoluted and wordy than Chabon's usual style, which is saying something). And worst of all, the story just isn't interesting. I couldn't get an emotional connection with no character -- they're all so bored and messed up (in boring, mundane ways) that it really didn't click.

    I tried -- honestly. I rarely ditch a book midway through, but I couldn't bring myself to finish this one. Maybe it picks up after the middle, but the first half just wasn't worth it.
  • (5/5)
    Not too long ago I read a novel which had characters that were unlovable who staggered through unlikable lives that resolved in some redemption. It was a critical favorite. I rated it as a piece of whale dreck. Wonder Boys has unlovable characters who stagger through unlikable lives that resolve in a slightly higher level of redemption. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. What's the difference? Well, I'm not going to spend any more time on what was wrong with that other book. Instead, let's talk about why this book works. Chabon has an incredible storytelling skill. He brings us into the lives of the characters (even unlikable characters such as those introduced in this story) and entertains us as we watch them continue to mess up their lives, even as they are trying their darnedest to straighten them out.And that is why it is different. At the core, these people are trying to be better than they are, or they accept themselves for what they are. And, as they try to better themselves, we are thoroughly entertained. I mean, how can you not enjoy a story where three of the major talismans are a tuba, a dead dog, and a dead snake?This is yet another novel about an author (don't writers get tired of writing about writers – but let's not quibble – Chabon makes it work) – this time one who has been writing forever on a book that seems to be trying to rival The Dark Tower or Game of Thrones in length. We join this author as his life falls apart (a wife who is leaving him, a recently pregnant mistress, a significant marijuana "addiction", and a publisher screaming for that final draft). And then, just like every Disney ride you ever saw, something goes horribly wrong. Well, not that horrible, just entertainingly horrible.Chabon seldom disappoints, and that continues to be the case in this novel.Yeah, these are unlikable people. But we like them in spite of our (and their) selves.
  • (5/5)
    Michael Chabon's antic, exuberant tale of two days in the life of Grady Tripp, middle-aged, potsmoking, failed novelist. With a crazy cast of memorable characters and the astonishing prose that only Chabon can produce, the novel, while achingly funny, also delivers the pathos of failed ambitions and failed love.
  • (3/5)
    Funny at times and an unpredictable adventure, but I found the protagonist hard to sympathize with. Chabon's writing is smooth but also seems a bit pretentious.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    A campus novel that turns into a road trip culminating in a Passover dinner, Chabon crafts a neat tale full of interesting characters. Sadly, the best ones are those we only meet briefly - the feckles stoner protagonist, who is for some reason irresistible to women, is nowehere near as interesting as his wife's parents and siblings.
  • (2/5)
    Adam Langer's "Thieves of Manhattan" uses literary eponyms (listed in a glossary at the back) like "chabon n. A wavy mane like the one worn by the author Michael Chabon."I mention that eponym since I also read Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys." Everyone in this book (mostly academics and students) seems to be falling apart, and using drugs, alcohol and sex to cope. What's supposed to be whimsical and comic comes across as sad to me. I don't want to see the movie.
  • (3/5)
    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!