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09 April 2010 @ 10:22 pm
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon

What an ending to what a book! AKA, WHY DID YOU PUT IN THAT CRAPPY EPILOGUE WHY. COULD YOU NOT HAVE LET ART AND ART HAVE A HAPPY ENDING?! Speaking of which, what WAS the relevance of having them both be called Arthur? (Not that I would even have noticed if Art hadn't pointed out that Art was a nickname.) I did NOT want to know that Art ended up alone and bereft of all the people who filled his life with colour.

It was so very obviously a first novel. I'm excited to read more of Chabon's work, but I hope that he's refined some of his dafter flights of fancy and vocab and attuned his idea of what constitutes good romance and harbingering. Particularly after reading the Godfather, the Mafioso plot didn't wash with me, yet equally I can't find any certainty in condemning it. It sort-of worked? But it should have been a book of summer love and pimping a city that seems pretty much overlooked in, well, everything. Not crime. (Or Crime.)

I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Maybe I'm just fandom-inculcated, but I feel that he could have - with Arthur. (Who, by the way, must have been first out of the mould of fandom clichés.)

A few descriptions and observations made me nod; yes, he's good; I hope he gets better.

listened for the accents of friendship: the banality, relaxation and lack of style that characterises a conversation between two friends.

They sat in a row, panting almost in unison, three tough little good-natured knots of dog muscle that attended to every movement of Teddy's hands. He commanded them to stop panting and blip! their tongues shot back into their mouths.

"We always have that conversation when I call him at his hotel. It's my favourite conversation in the whole world."

Which makes Art's bizarro abandonment of his father even more, well, bizarre.

Phlox, recognising early that she lacked a strong sense of humour, or rather than she lacked the ability to make up jokes, had memorised thousands of bizarre passages from books and from here and there, and had developed, in place of humour, an ability to drop these bombs into a conversation, sometimes with incongruous, killer accuracy.

At first I went, "Boo, you loser," but - isn't that exactly what humour is? Or do I mean comedy?

"Like his mom kills herself, his dad becomes about the scariest queer I've ever seen - and I've seen scary ones, believe me - so Cleveland is pardoned from having to do anything good, or productive, ever again."

So I'm mainly glad this book wasn't longer than it is, otherwise these excellent characterisations may have shown their straw legs.

Now I began to see that he was largely his own invention.

I LOVE Arthur. As, I suspect, I am meant to - which quells my ardour somewhat.

'I am a jewel thief'; for he was learning a profession, and as with doctors, and priests, and the other few true professionals (people, that is, who are trained to recognise peril) merely pronouncing the words 'jewel thief' served as an instantaneous reminder of his many skills and responsibilities, like a restorative slap.

Little as I like being lumped in with thieves, and still less so priests, this is actually true.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov
I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The School for Husbands, Moliere
On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks
The Famished Road, Ben Okri
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
The Sea, the Sea, Irish Murdoch ♥ ♥
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The Sea, John Banville
paddy clarke ha ha ha, Roddy Doyle
The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman
Possession, A.S. Byatt ♥ ♥ ♥
Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales
oopsoddishly on May 9th, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
ARTHUR IS SO GREAT. I didn't get the feeling we were supposed to love him -- which surprised me at the time, I remember -- so much as, hmm, maybe that Chabon knew that people would? He expected but didn't milk it? Idk, it's been a while since I read it, I might be wrong. Mainly I just loved him ridiculously :)

With you on the epilogue. What even was that. All the drama/crime/etc wasn't really necessary, argh.

Have you actually read more of his work?
oopsoddishly on May 9th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Also, two days left!!!!! THAT IS EXCITING :D
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on May 9th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
I can't believe you remember, so accurately I mean! Even my dad got it wrong!!! AND I KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

(Also, this post was meant to be hidden till tomorrow, when I'm going to post a round-up of the eight? nine? books I read. In case you wonder where it disappeared to!)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: anumberonme fainting couchscoradh on May 9th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Maybe that was it? I have an awfully clear picture of him, with his pink throat and sandy stubble. Chabon has a pretty light touch - it would have been easy to over-do Arthur, but that one glimpse of his mother - ugh. SO GOOD.

Late eighties angst is what I'm putting it down to!

No, but I have The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in my four-book pile of post-exam treats (with An Equal Music, Dragon Haven and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). Plus they have Wonder Boys in Waterstones, and I'm inclined to buy up all his stuff before they realise he writes the gay and take it away again.
Rinaveryshortlist on May 9th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
Chabon gets much better. Read Wonderboys, my favorite of his, or better yet, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, his magnum opus. It won a well-deserved Pulitzer. Or The Yiddish Policeman's Union, which was also good. Not as good as Wonderboys.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Christmasscoradh on May 10th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
I have the Amazing Adventures ready to go just as soon as my exam drops! (Well ... I really should finish True History of the Kelly Gang, because I started it and it's a library book. BUT AFTER THAT.)
the claw-foot Lady: [stock] because when you dosoftlyforgotten on May 9th, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
I like the epilogue! It felt to me like it was the only possible outcome, really; Art is so selfish, in so many ways, and so much of his relationship with Arthur is based on these constructions of something -- not entirely real, I guess? I feel like it was the only eventuality that could actually feel real, and I kind of liked it, too, that Chabon makes the effort within that -- that Art does go with Arthur at the end of that summer, if only for a very little while, that they make the effort. I thought they fell apart in a pretty realistic way, and not necessarily a tragic one? I liked that it didn't feel like "original slash!!!" but rather a complex relationship in a novel which happened to be a gay one, and just, yeah!

Also, aha, I am biased as I love Michael Chabon so much and didn't actually notice any particularly clunky bits of writing in this (that it was a first novel, yes, with bits of lyrical writing that are kind of like showing off, oh man, definitely; but I feel that what he lacks in subtlety he makes up for in strength), but yes, do read other books by him. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is particularly amazing, but I am also halfway through both Summerland and his essay collection, Maps and Legends (he talks about fanfiction!!) and loving them both insanely. And I also really liked his collection of short stories, Werewolves In Their Youth.

Basically: YEAH CHABON♥♥♥
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fooish: rainbow umbrellascoradh on May 10th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
I'll give you the complex relationship one, but did you notice how it was somehow okay for Art to cheat on his girlfriend with a boy? That's an 'original slash!!!' trope if ever I saw one. And Art, selfish? lol, I suppose that's true. For some reason I never see the bad in main characters if they don't point it out themselves. Mainly I felt sorry for Art's dad; I don't think he planned for Cleveland's death, and Art didn't seem to actively blame him for it, so I have no idea why he brutally cut his father out of his life. That part of the epilogue galled more than the destroyed fairytale ending.

OH GOD WEREWOLVES D: WHY DOES EVERYONE LOVE THEM SO. Showing off! So true. He's very much a twenty-three year old writer throughout, but for all that it's very good, and I'm glad I picked up the rec from you. ♥
the claw-foot Ladysoftlyforgotten on May 11th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
I'll give you the complex relationship one, but did you notice how it was somehow okay for Art to cheat on his girlfriend with a boy? That's an 'original slash!!!' trope if ever I saw one.
Ahaha, true, I didn't think of that one! Although also I kind of think Art would be of the "it's okay for me to cheat on everyone for I am ~~~deep and complex" mindset, um.

I can't remember Art's dad very well, argh, I am so bad with books, but I will have to reread and think about that.

There's only one story about a werewolf! And it's just a crazy little boy who THINKS he's a werewolf, if that helps.
real men love disco: charlotte wears sunglassestakkatakkatakka on May 9th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
Ah, I loved this book, mostly because of how overwhelmingly summery it is - there's so much warmth and brightness in it and I was reading it in February when everything here was murky grey: it cheered me up so much.

Also the whole thing where his father was a ganster; I don't know, it just kind of added to the wonderful ridiculous of it for me, because to be honest the whole thing was quite OTT and self-aware, almost on the very light side of fantastical, so throwing in a gangster father didn't feel that out of place.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Christmasscoradh on May 10th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
It is, isn't it? And I'm reading it during a reasonably good if blustery summer, and that's just as appropriate.

Yes, so self-aware; it's quite fortunate, actually, because if his rein had been any loser it would have got away with him. He can only go up from here!
l.m.incandescent on May 10th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
This sounds interesting. I'd love to get around to it.

And I almost shudder to think that one day I may write a book that you'll get your hands on. You're such a keen reader. I don't believe I'd survive.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Internet wins at lifescoradh on May 10th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
Of course you would! Only make certain you write a good book. :P