Synopses & Reviews
Set in industrial Pittsburgh in the mid-eighties, Michael Chabon's breakthrough coming-of-age novel chronicles the last summer of Art Bechstein's youth. Art meets the witty and beautiful Arthur Lecomte, who then introduces Art to the equally stunning Jane, her boyfriend, the legendary Cleveland, and worldly, exotic, and slightly eccentric Phlox. In the course of one summer, this band of colorful friends guides and thwarts Art in surprising ways as he confronts himself, his family, his sexuality, and the heartache of growing up.
"Generally, first novels appear and disappear unnoticed; however, when one does draw attention, too often it takes the form of extravagant praise. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is very good, a first novel I expect many people will read with pleasure this year but which I think other readers will discover and enjoy many years from now. Chabon never writes with boring predictability or flat language: his tale of a young man's summer is fresh and engaging even though we've already read so many other tales of young men coming of age. But my praise will not be extravagant: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is not of grand scope nor its investigations of great depth. One can enjoy this novel but still anticipate with pleasure a future work of greater import from Michael Chabon." Reviewed by Don Fry, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"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." Washington Post Book World
"A very daring, vivid and exciting book." Cosmopolitan
"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." Playboy
"[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." Pittsburgh Press
"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." Los Angeles Times
"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." Boston Herald
By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
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
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.
About the Author
Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Werewolves in Their Youth, Wonderboys, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Summerland (a novel for children), and The Final Solution. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
Arthur Lecomte and Art share the same name. What is the significance of this?
As their friendship blossoms, Art even begins to "affect an over grammatical, precious manner toward people,"(page 57) following Arthur's example. Does Art want to be Arthur? Why?
"I had the impression that as far as Arthur and Jane were concerned, Cleveland flew, or had flown, as far above their twin blond heads as I saw them flying above mebut he had fallen, or was falling, or they were all on their way down." (Page 38-39). Art meets up with his newfound friends at the end of college. What draws them all together?
Do Jane, Arthur, and Art unrealistically idolize Cleveland? What does Cleveland represent to the three friends? Is his death the inevitable severing of their fragile friendships?
Describe Art's relationship with his father. Does he resent his father more for his mob connection or for the death of his mother?
Art's mother's death is a mystery up until Art blurts out in the hospital, "Ever since what, Lenny? They killed my mother instead of him?" (Page 290). How does that explain Art's uncertainty throughout the story, his childlike behavior around his father, his reluctance to talk about his mother to Phlox, and/or his insecurity about his masculinity?
After Art introduces Cleveland to his father, Art realizes he has lost any remaining respect his father may have had for him. What makes Art turn to Arthur for solace?
What does the Cloud Factory represent to these characters?
Is Cleveland a genuine friend of Art's, or an opportunist?
Aside from Art's troubled relationship with his father, explain Jane's, Cleveland's, and Arthur's relationships with their parents, and how these relationships shaped the characters.