The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

This first novel of Michel Chabon presents some of the most characteristic features of author’s further development. In the small and dense atmosphere of Pittsburgh, Chabon introduces the reader to the world of a young man and its perplexities. Written with wit, embroidered with tiny observations about life, the story goes along with the main character’s summer adventures, his personal discoveries and biases.

Although some moments when the whole writing has captivated my attention and pushed me further in the story-line, all could quite immerse into the story. The characters were very interesting and intriguing, their ‘adventures’, though, couldn’t develop some strong interest on my side.

The atmosphere of a dense circle and a small, or rather – not big and cosmopolitan city, was something which I find rather well built in the novel. This was one of the things that I found delightful. The other, of course, were some moments of observations and insights, that I could relate with.

In the end, I don’t regret reading this book, because it provided me with an interesting insight about Michael Chabon’s start and path as a writer. “ The Mysteries of Pittsburgh“, tough, is a book that I would not recommend easily and just to anybody.

My first thirteen years, years of ecstatic, uncomfortable, and speechless curiosity, followed by six months of disaster and disappointment, convinced me somehow that every new friend came equipped with a terrific secret, which one day, deliberately, he would reveal; I need only maintain a discreet, adoring, and fearful silence.

I smoked and looked down at the bottom of Pittsburgh for a little while, watching the kids playing tiny baseball, the distant figures of dogs snatching at a little passing car, a miniature housewife on her back porch shaking out a snippet of red rug, and I made a sudden, frightened vow never to become that small, and to devote myself to getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. She has entered into her course of study, first of all, knowing full well that it can only lead to her becoming a French teacher, a very grim affair, the least of whose evils is poor pay, and the prospect of which should have been sufficient to send her straight into business or public relations. She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue.

Some compulsiveness inherited from my father, and also a kind of unnecessary delicacy, had always driven me to keep friends separate, to shun group excursions, but for this calm couple of weeks at the eye of the summer I felt free of the guilt that usually accompanied my juggling of friendships, and free of the sense of duplicity that went along with pushing the people I loved into separate corners of my life, and once in a while Phlox, Arthur, and I would eat our lunches on the same patch of grass.

Just then-at the very instant she turned a fairly calm face to me-all the cicadas in the trees went ape, who knows why, and their music was as loud and ugly as a thousand televisions tuned to the news. In Pittsburgh, even the cicadas are industrial.

I watched the door to my room remain firmly shut and ached for that return of everything to its previous condition which is the apology’s false promise.

In any case, it is not love, but friendship, that truly eludes you. 

Back to Top