Michael Chabon / gq.com
«Wonder Boys» is the name of the novel by Michael Chabon that will be discussed. And that is the name of the novel, which for nine years has been written by Professor Grady Tripp, the main character of the book. The professor’s novel is about two thousand pages long, and the plot is far from over.
For Grady this is a real drama — at stake is his reputation as a writer, his well-being and, of course, his ego.
But the dramas don’t end there. In real life, things are even more complicated. His wife Emily has left him. His mistress Sarah is pregnant. His student, James Leer, comes close to committing suicide, but instead kills his mistress’s husband’s dog. The corpse (of the dog, not the mistress) is carried in a trunk for almost the entire novel, along with Marilyn Monroe’s jacket, James’ novel «The Love Parade», and the body of a dead boa constrictor, the pet of a former father-in-law who happens to be run over by Professor Tripp. The boa constrictor, not the father-in-law.
The professor begins to patronize James, sympathizing with the modestly dressed young man who has no friends. But it turns out James is lying all the time. Or is he making things up? Not so much in his novel as in real life and about real people. The professor calls James a wonder boy. And this casually dropped phrase suddenly reveals a new perception of the story.
«Wonder Boys» is not about a manuscript of two thousand pages, it’s about life. Professor Tripp writes a real novel through his actions and the choices he makes when he decides to help James. He’s a little out of it, but that’s what all real writers are — «midnighters» — they get so immersed in their work that they lose touch with reality. And the professor unknowingly twists a tight knot of adventures in his life, simply because he does not want to finally turn into a midnighter, he needs a lever to get out on solid ground.
«Wonder Boys» is an honest book about many of the challenges of being a writer: the constant choice between the novel and real life, the fear that this book will be worse than the last one or not at all, the over-valuing of one’s work, the inability to deal with life’s issues because it seems someone will come along and write your life as a chapter from scratch, the doping instead of inspiration, the total immersion in fantasy without an instructor to pull the rope if anything.
And yet the novel is written with surprising ease. Beautiful imagery, humor, the ability to weave informative facts into the plot, vivid characters, and the plot itself is worth a lot!
I would with a pure heart recommend this book to everyone. It is clever, fun, interesting, but far from superficial. A unique combination, isn’t it?