Chabon’s Latest “Mysteries”

A girl I was trying very hard to get to like me once casually mentioned her favorite book, Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh — which, of course, meant that I immediately packed myself over to the closest public library and began scavenging through it like a madman.

Of any book to be read under these circumstances, Mysteries is probably among the worst — a bizarre coming-of-age tale about a boy named Art Bechstein, the son of Jewish mobsters. It starts reading like an old-school American novel like Herman Wouk’s The City Boy and concludes more along the lines of, uh — a really bizarre old-school pulp porno.

Keep in mind that this is Chabon when he was an undergraduate in college; trying to be a haute auteur and not yet at the point where he could ‘fess up to his X-Men addiction. He had yet to be hailed, for better or worse, as the Jewish Author of the Generation (although, in a just world, his reputation would be solidified by the admirable Khazar novel The Gentlemen of the Road than, well, Yiddish policemen), and so what follows is just a smattering of experimentation, sexually as well as narratively, in the life of young Mr. Bechstein over one summer.

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