Book Review: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

12 01 2009

mystpittscvr1I recently finished Michael Chabon’s first novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a tale of the summer after college.  The narrator (Art) is the son of an infamous gangster and in some ways, that’s the most pedestrian part of the book.  The rest are the crazy twists and turns of a youngman figuring out how to be an adult while forming the kinds of friendship and love that one can only form when they have no real responsibilities.  

For a first novel, the book is beautifully written.  While it starts out a little bumpy, one it gets going the writing is smooth and easy.  In the version I read, Chabon discusses how he wrote the book in a basement crawlspace, precariously balanced on a stool atop a suitcase.  

The thing I think that is most powerful in this book, is the universe Chabon creates.  Not only are the characters powerful, but there is a definite sense of nostalgia for specific places in Pittsburgh.  From the Cloud Factory to the Lost Neighborhood, you get this feeling like part of the city is hidden and just waiting to be discovered.  

While not as powerful as some of his later works suck as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or Wonder Boys, you can clearly see Chabon working out the themes that show up in those later books.  This is a great first novel from a great writer and definitely worth picking up.

Apparently the book was also made into a film in 2008, however the casting makes me think it might not be the best adaptation.  Additionally it appears that they’ve dropped Arthur (there is one who isn’t the narrator) and combined him with Cleveland.





The Week that Was

19 04 2008

So another week has come and gone. I haven’t really absorbed a lot of media this week. It’s been a lot of watching the Yankees lose and watching my TiVo crash over and over again thanks to Directv’s shitty software updates (the word on the interwebs is that it’s only happening here in central, NC). I wish two of my favorites could play nice together again. I don’t want to go back to cable but I do want to buy one of those nifty HD Tivo series 3 boxes. Anyway, I’ve read a few things, noticed a few things, and bought a few things. In no particular order, here they are:

A trip away from my usual comic book store to Chapel Hill Comics led to a puchase of Michael Chabon’s first work of non-fiction Maps and Legends. It’s gone on my giant pile of books left to read, which also includes:
In Hoboken by Christian Bauman
Signal & Noise by John Griesemer.
Summerland by Michael Chabon.
Scores of New Yorkers, piles of comics, and a few other random magazines.

Other interesting links from the week include:
The AV Club’s Comics Panel is out this week and covers a new limited run of American Splendor.
Ryan Adams continues to communicate with the world.
Issue 101 of One-Story has come out.
Thanks to Electricity & Lust for pointing out new details on Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse, though I do wish he would write another 100 issues of the Astonishing X-Men instead.
Save Baby Gorilla is reporting that Artie Lange will be back on the Stern show on Monday.

Ok, off to bed to read a little of my current book Neighbors by Thomas Berger. Good night!





Weekly Notes

5 04 2008

So again my sleep schedule was up and down this week, but here are a few notes, reviews, links, etc. for the week…

First, let me say that I read the first issue of Marvel’s Secret Invasion. Let me just say, WOW. I don’t want to drop any spoilers but I’m excited, confused, and waiting to see what happens next. Some reviews:
The AV Club review (along with the comic’s panel) is here.
LOTRKing’s Review is here (though filled with spoilers so be warned!).

Now that Secret Invasion is out of the way, what else?
Thanks to the New York Times I discovered Jott, an interesting site that allows you to Tweet, blog, e-mail, etc. from your cell phone without having to go through the pain in the neck of texting (I’m showing my age).

I had to finally put down Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. I didn’t realize it was originally published as a serial. Either way it was a bit too much fantasy for me. I like my fantasy in comic books or movies, not fiction.

The One Story Blog is doing its thing. It’s a great magazine and worth the subscription if you like short fiction.

Like Twitter? You’ll, um love likenotice Dawdlr. The postcards are beautiful though.

Check out Ryan Adams and his brilliant brain at work.

Electricity and Lust is renewing its focus on movies but it’s still just as great.

I still have a stack of comics and New Yorker magazines to plow through and will let you know if I find anything…





Catching Up

16 03 2008

I’ve been behind on blogging lately as my wife was in her ninth month of pregnancy and then had the baby a week ago.  As a result, my reading and viewing habits have been lazy lazy lazy.  Here’s a taste of what I’ve been consuming…

Starbuck’s, yes the coffee company has put out a great CD of music handpicked by Bob Dylan. Find it here. It’s a nice listen of blues, bluegrass, country, reggae, etc. I was surprised at how much I liked it.

Let’s not forget comics. It’s been a big few weeks for comics (and I’m still behind). First, I want to AGAIN mention my love affair with Captain America. Every issue gets better, James as the new Cap is fantastic, the writing is entertaining, and the art is wonderful. I’m curious to see how the entire Sharon Carter thing plays out. I’m also interested to see the new Cap start meeting other members of the Marvel Universe. The one question I have is, what’s going to be up with Steve Rogers during this whole secret invasion thing? While I don’t believe he would have sided with Tony Stark during the Civil War, would he have found a better way to resolve the conflict? Is he a Skrull? I guess we’ll see…

The other book I’ve been enjoying is Fantastic Four. Two issues into Mark Millar’s story arc, I’m enjoying the conflict that is being set up. I suspect that the new creative team is going to bring us along on big adventures and can’t wait.

And finally (in terms of comics) is the Hulk books. The Incredible Herc has been fun and Hulk Red has been interesting too. I suspect that we’re not too far off from the Hulk coming back in style. I like the subtle touches such as Clay Quartermain being around. I just wish he was a little more like the character from 10 or so years ago when he, Rick Jones, and the Hulk were on the road.

In terms of books, I just finished Generation X by Douglas Coupland. Boy, he was ahead of his time when he wrote that book in 1991. Reading it today I feel better. I’m not as weird as I thought I was…

Current reading includes Gentlemen of the Roadby Michael Chabon, The Last Defenders, Northlanders, and some New Yorkers and National Geographic Travellers. I’ve also got a CD wish list that I plan on cycling through. I’ll let you know if I hear anything good.





Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

12 02 2008

The Coen Brothers seem to be on board to produce a film version of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union. This was a very good book with the potential to be an entertaining and interesting movie. For you comic book fans, I’d heartily endorse another of Chabon’s books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It’s a great story set in the Golden Age and Silver Age of Comics. It’s a great read and a difficult book to put down.