Book review: Wonder Boys


Title: Wonder Boys
Author: Michael Chabon

“Wonder Boys” can simply be summarized in just one word: underwhelming. It is honestly a huge disappointment for me because I took the extra mile to hunt it down at a public library even though it is not available as a Kindle e-book.

My enthusiasm towards reading it is because Michael Chabon, author of the book, is coming down for the Singapore Writers Festival this October. Since I have never met a real Pulitzer Prize winner in person before, I thought this would be a great opportunity, but at the very least, I would have to at least flip through one of his works since I have not read any of them before.

But with only 384 pages, “Wonder Boys” took me almost an entire week of extraordinary discipline and effort to hit the very last page. As a whole, the book fell flat for there was a lack in climaxes, problems or build-ups that made reading it as plain as drinking a cup of water.

The main protagonist of the story, Grady Tripp, a 40-year-old professor and novelist, leads us through the novel, which is centered on his messy life. His woes largely stemmed from his unfinished 2,600 odd pages of manuscript titled “Wonder Boys” that consumed seven years of his life and his self-esteem.

Michael Chabon
In another words, this is a book about a dysfunctional middle-age man and his mid-life crises of coping not only with his career, but also his drug addiction and inability to commit to long-term relationships. Throughout the book, his wandering heart flirted amongst his wife, turned ex-wife, pregnant girlfriend, who is also chancellor of the school he teaches in and a student he is infatuated with, currently renting a room in his house.

Tripp’s life might sound screwed up and tiresome but reading about it is even more tiring. The entire story was narrated from his point of view, where he constantly moaned and moped about his awry and twisted life while feeling self-reproachful of his actions and emotional derailment.

At 40, Tripp’s immaturity is honestly not convincing and towards the end, I was just annoyed by this character. In fact, he does sound like the teenagers featured on BBC’s reality series “World’s Strictest Parents” who needed authoritative figures in their life to spank them and make them realize about their irresponsible behavior.

Furthermore, I am also unable fathom why in the world would Tripp decide to let James Leer, who is his oddball student cum talented, Catholic-church-hating writer, to let him tag along with him as his life spiraled out of control. This includes bringing him along with a trip to his wife’s family Passover gathering and encourage him smoke pot? Like seriously?

Towards the end of book, I have made up my mind that I would give the meet-and-greet session with Michael Chabon a miss. I am sorry Mr. Chabon but your book really fails to interest me very much.

Just in case if you might be interested, “Wonder Boys” has been adapted into a movie casting Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire, having won an Oscar award and numerous prestigious accolades.

Click here for the IMDb description of the movie and here is the trailer for the show:

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