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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (P.S.)

by

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (P.S.) Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Elevator Going Up
At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We'd just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will--a year I'd spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frankness and a fury that were not at all like him. But Claire had moved out the month before. Neither my father nor I knew what to do with our new freedom.

"I saw Lenny Stem this morning," he said. "He asked after you. You remember your Uncle Lenny."

"Sure," I said, and I thought for a second about Uncle Lenny, juggling three sandwich halves in the back room of his five-and-dime in the Hill District a million years ago.

I was nervous and drank more than I ate; my father carefully dispatched his steak. Then he asked me what my plans were for the summer, and in the flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more or less: It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand, story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 rpm, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spine of a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink. I said, I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray."

My father told me that I was overwrought and that Claire had had an unfortunate influence on my speech, but something in his face said that he understood. That night he flew back to Washington, and the next day, for the first time in years, I looked in the newspaper for some lurid record of the effect of his visit, but of course there was none. He wasn't that kind of gangster.

Claire had moved out on the thirtieth of April, taking with her all of the Joni Mitchell and the complete soundtrack recording of the dialogue from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, a four-record set, which she knew by heart. At some point toward the sexless and conversationless finale of Art and Claire, I had informed her that my father said she suffered from dementia praecox. My father's influence upon me was strong, and I believed this. I later told people that I had lived with a crazy woman, and also that I had had enough of Romeo and Juliet.

The last term in my last year of college sputtered out in a week-long fusillade of examinations and sentimental alcohol conferences with professors whom I knew I would not really miss, even as I shook their hands and bought them beers. There was, however, a last paper on Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess, for which I realized I would have to make one exasperating last visit to the library, the dead core of my education, the white, silent kernel of every empty Sunday I had spent trying to ravish the faint charms of the study of economics, my sad and cynical major.

So one day at the beginning of June I came around the concrete comer that gave way to the marbleized steps of the library. Walking the length of brown ground-floor windows, I looked into them, at the reflection of my walk, my loafers, my mess of hair. Then I felt guilty, because at our lunch my father, the amateur psychologist, had called me a "devout narcissist" and had said he worried that I might be "doomed to terminal adolescence." I looked away.

There were very few students using the building this late in the term, which was officially over. A few pink-eyed and unshaven pages loitered behind the big checkout counter, staring out at the brown sun through the huge tinted windows. I clicked loudly in my loafers across the tile floor. As I called for the elevator to the Freud section, a girl looked up. She was in a window; there was an aqua ribbon in her hair. The window was a kind of grille, as in a bank, at the far end of the corridor in which I stood waiting for the elevator, and the girl in the window held a book in one hand and a thin strip of wire in the other. We looked at each other for perhaps three seconds, then I turned back to face the suddenly illuminated red Up arrow, the muscles in my neck warming and tightening. As I stepped into the car...

The foregoing is excerpted from Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. All rights reserved.

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amber.pasternak, March 10, 2008 (view all comments by amber.pasternak)
I'm consistently surprised by how many people like this book. As a previous commentor mentioned the sex scenes are terrible. But I didn't think anything else was much better.
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(9 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)
manwith7talents, December 11, 2007 (view all comments by manwith7talents)
I enjoyed reading this book and I liked the characters. However it has some of the worst sex scenes I have ever read, both hetero- and homo-sexual, and plenty of them. Eventually, I started skipping over the sex scenes to read the rest of the book, which is actually pretty good.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060790592
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Chabon, Michael
Author:
by Michael Chabon
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Subject:
General
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
Young men
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20050705
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.02x5.34x.74 in. .52 lbs.

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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.99 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Perennial - English 9780060790592 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Pulitzer Prize-winner Chabon's first novel (written for his master's thesis at UC Irvine) was published when he was twenty-five, and quickly became a bestseller. Set in the steel ciy, this hilarious coming-of-age story tells the tale of Art Bechstein's first summer after college. Themes, such as confused sexuality, identity crises, and displaced ambitions, and vivid characters (a father who is a Jewish mobster, a capricious librarian named Phlox) combine to form an uproarious and lyrical narrative. Strong characterizations and resplendent prose mark Chabon's debut, an unforgettable book that is both charming and poignant.

"Review" by , "There's a lot of talk about this novel. It's almost as if there's going to be a great big literary bash. The guys who will be on the guest list are a cinch. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield....And now, from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Art Bechstein."
"Review" by , "A very daring, vivid and exciting book."
"Review" by , "Absolutely terrific....Anybody can write a realistic account of his first postgraduation summer of growing up and making love, but to make such a story the stuff of legend, as Chabon has done here (and Fitzgerald did before him), takes something close to genius."
"Review" by , "[A] very funny and very eloquent book — a book that both earns and wears easily such adjectives as 'brilliant'...The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a funny, charming, hugely entertaining and excellently written book."
"Review" by , "Remarkable....What makes this book — and Chabon — worth our attentiation is [that] Chabon has chosen not merely to record all the ills of an oversexed, overindulged generation with nowhere to go but to bed or to a bar; he has chosen to explore, to enter this world and try to find what makes it work, why love and friendship choose to visit some, deny others."
"Review" by , "Chabon's writing is deft and delicate — almost every page includes a delightful phrase or two. He mingles dialogue, the Pittsburgh cityscape, descriptions of the characters' acticity and Art's thoughts and feelings to achieve that magical illusion good novels give — that the reader is living the character's life with all its savors, jokes and pangs."
"Synopsis" by , Chabon provides a brilliantly fresh first novel and national bestseller about the joys and pains of youth coming of age. "Astonishing....The voice of a young writer with tremendous skill as he discovers, joyously, just what his words can do." New York Times
"Synopsis" by , The enthralling debut from bestselling novelistMichael Chabon is a penetrating narrative of complexfriendships, father-son conflicts, and the awakening of a young mans 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 Ryes HoldenCaulfield and The Great Gatsbys 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.
"Synopsis" by , By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
"Synopsis" by , Now reissued, Michael Chabon's "New York Times" bestselling first novel is a funny, tender coming-of-age novel that introduces readers to Art Bechstein, a Holden Caulfield for the post-Boomer/pre-Gen X-er generation. Chabon's first novel was universally lauded as the arrival of a rare and remarkable new literary talent who has proved to be one of our most profound and original writers.

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