Saturday, July 7, 2018

Wonder Boys

You know, when I decided on this Summer of Chabon thing, I neglected to mention one sort of intangible reason that pushed me onto this path. As I mentioned in my last post, I absolutely loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and one of the main things I remember about that book is the absolute immersive experience it provided. And so, after a particularly trying start to the year, I wanted to plunge myself into the drawn-out reading of novels, for sure; in addition, I was hoping for the type of complete and utter escape the best novels offer.
For me, my first Chabon summer read did not disappoint. Wonder Boys was published back in 1995, so this will come as no surprise to many of you: it’s a great read. Chabon’s luckless protagonist, Grady Tripp, is a writer struggling to complete a never-ending second novel and for its tragicomic look at the writing life and its pretensions, goals, and tortures, the novel is enough. For its range of vivid and fascinating characters, the novel is enough. And it was exactly what I was hoping for in terms of engagement. Wonder Boys is not only entirely immersive at the story level, an imaginative farce that makes for easy page-turning, but it’s also absorbing at the sentence level, a joy for anyone who lives intimately with and loves the possibilities of language. Honestly, this novel does everything you could ever ask a novel to do. Perhaps it did not move me to tears (and I do love a good cry), but it was touching and intellectually stimulating and very, very funny.
A brief note: When I finished reading last night, I was so high on Wonder Boys that I decided to watch the film version (2000, Michael Douglas et al.). At first look, I thought the casting was really good. And, well, I watched about forty minutes and that was enough. It was fine. As is most often the case, the film couldn’t live up to the vast and vivid world of the novel. Or maybe it was too soon. I guess I’d rather stay immersed a little while longer.
Next up, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, probably the book people bring up most often when Chabon is mentioned. At least to me. Looking forward to it very much. If anyone would like to join along on the Chabonpalooza, or share your thoughts on these novels as I move through them, please do!
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka