Literature │Writers Behaving Badly
by Michael Chabon
(published in “Avrupa” newspaper)
A dried up marijuana sipping writer, a nutty editor, a young suicidal pathologically lying student, a blind dog and a tuba are only a few of the fantastic ingredients thrown into a pot and cooked up in Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys. This novel focuses on events that take place over a weekend when Professor Grady Tripp’s editor comes to town seeking his manuscript which has boiled over the 2000 page mark.
To be absolutely frank, the characters are terribly stereotypical; they fall with ease into one’s preconceptions of the bohemian lifestyle of most artists, but this is not important. What drives the novel are the tragic and hilarious events that take place throughout the novel, and Chabon executes this well. Chabon wrote Wonder Boys in 1995, this was his second novel, but it wasn’t an easy process, in fact, it was a nightmare. Chabon struggled with writer’s block which spiralled frantically out of control as he found himself submitting manuscripts over 600 pages long whilst dealing with a divorce. These themes run throughout the novel, and are for certain Chabon’s technique of facing his own ghosts.
This form of novel is self-reflective, he is not the first writer to focus on the life of a writer in his fiction; in fact, Stephen King is famous for exorcising his demons by placing his characters who are usually writers, in situations that are dire such as Misery, The Shining and “Secret Window, Secret Garden” and even Plath’s The Bell Jar. Wonder Boys tackles more than the issue of writer’s block; it dissects the writer’s life into multiples, forcing us to be aware rather rapidly that what appears to be classed as writer’s block is more like a life block. Grady’s life is undeniably out of control, his multiple wives, affairs, drug habits and so forth culminate to this very point, to this one weekend when he realises that enough is enough. Therefore, one can determine with natural ease, that art is in fact reflecting life entirely.
Wonder Boys is most certainly an entertaining read as we delve into an upside down world of fatherhood, sexuality, growing up and letting go. Although at times it can feel as though there is too much time spent on descriptions which can overstate what Chabon was intending, it is certainly not lacking in plot. This novel’s simplicity and complexity all fused in one turns Wonder Boys into a mini- literary explosion and therefore worth picking up to read.