The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

by Michael Chabon

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The Pulitzer Prize–winning author’s “astonishing” debut novel, about a son’s struggle to find his own identity and integrity (The New York Times).

Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Moonglow, and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, is one of the most acclaimed talents in contemporary fiction. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, published when Chabon was just twenty-five, is the beautifully crafted debut that propelled him into the literary stratosphere.
Art Bechstein may be too young to know what he wants to do with his life, but he knows what he doesn’t want: the life of his father, a man who laundered money for the mob. He spends the summer after graduation finding his own way, experimenting with a group of brilliant and seductive new friends: erudite Arthur Lecomte, who opens up new horizons for Art; mercurial Phlox, who confounds him at every turn; and Cleveland, a poetry-reciting biker who pulls him inevitably back into his father’s mobbed-up world.
A New York Times bestseller, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was called “astonishing” by Alice McDermott, and heralded the arrival of one of our era’s great voices.
 This ebook features a biography of the author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781453234099
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/20/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 153,827
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. One of America’s most distinctive voices, Chabon has been called “a magical prose stylist” by the New York Times Book Review, and is known for his lively writing, nostalgia for bygone modes of storytelling, and deep empathy for the human predicament.

Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. One of America’s most distinctive voices, Chabon has been called “a magical prose stylist” by New York Times Book Review, and is known for his lively writing, nostalgia for bygone modes of storytelling, and deep empathy for the human predicament.


Berkeley, California

Date of Birth:

May 24, 1963

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine

Read an Excerpt

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
A Novel

Chapter One

Elevator Going Up

At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We'd just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will—a year I'd spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frankness and a fury that were not at all like him. But Claire had moved out the month before. Neither my father nor I knew what to do with our new freedom.

"I saw Lenny Stem this morning," he said. "He asked after you. You remember your Uncle Lenny."

"Sure," I said, and I thought for a second about Uncle Lenny, juggling three sandwich halves in the back room of his five-and-dime in the Hill District a million years ago.

I was nervous and drank more than I ate; my father carefully dispatched his steak. Then he asked me what my plans were for the summer, and in the flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more or less: It's the beginning of the summer and I'm standing in the lobby of a thousand, story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 rpm, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spineof a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink. I said, I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray."

My father told me that I was overwrought and that Claire had had an unfortunate influence on my speech, but something in his face said that he understood. That night he flew back to Washington, and the next day, for the first time in years, I looked in the newspaper for some lurid record of the effect of his visit, but of course there was none. He wasn't that kind of gangster.

Claire had moved out on the thirtieth of April, taking with her all of the Joni Mitchell and the complete soundtrack recording of the dialogue from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, a four-record set, which she knew by heart. At some point toward the sexless and conversationless finale of Art and Claire, I had informed her that my father said she suffered from dementia praecox. My father's influence upon me was strong, and I believed this. I later told people that I had lived with a crazy woman, and also that I had had enough of Romeo and Juliet.

The last term in my last year of college sputtered out in a week-long fusillade of examinations and sentimental alcohol conferences with professors whom I knew I would not really miss, even as I shook their hands and bought them beers. There was, however, a last paper on Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess, for which I realized I would have to make one exasperating last visit to the library, the dead core of my education, the white, silent kernel of every empty Sunday I had spent trying to ravish the faint charms of the study of economics, my sad and cynical major.

So one day at the beginning of June I came around the concrete comer that gave way to the marbleized steps of the library. Walking the length of brown ground-floor windows, I looked into them, at the reflection of my walk, my loafers, my mess of hair. Then I felt guilty, because at our lunch my father, the amateur psychologist, had called me a "devout narcissist" and had said he worried that I might be "doomed to terminal adolescence." I looked away.

There were very few students using the building this late in the term, which was officially over. A few pink-eyed and unshaven pages loitered behind the big checkout counter, staring out at the brown sun through the huge tinted windows. I clicked loudly in my loafers across the tile floor. As I called for the elevator to the Freud section, a girl looked up. She was in a window; there was an aqua ribbon in her hair. The window was a kind of grille, as in a bank, at the far end of the corridor in which I stood waiting for the elevator, and the girl in the window held a book in one hand and a thin strip of wire in the other. We looked at each other for perhaps three seconds, then I turned back to face the suddenly illuminated red Up arrow, the muscles in my neck warming and tightening. As I stepped into the car...

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
A Novel
. Copyright © by Michael Chabon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents


17. B AND E,
19. THE BIG P,
A Biography of Michael Chabon,

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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
TheNeonNarwhal More than 1 year ago
I initially bought Chabon's book based on the raving reviews that compared this work to that of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." And, boy, was I disappointed with the actual product. I will not go as far as to say that Chabon's work was a complete failure: this writer is very talented at constructing creative similes and appears to have a great deal of fun coming up with clever ways to describe commonplace situations, emotions, and places. The execution of the storyline and character depth, however, are poor. This book is not similar to Salinger's and Fitzgerald's works because it is expertly constructed or engaging in the least. In fact, the only reason why this book can be compared to such classics is because Chabon seems to have taken elements of each of these stories (while infusing a little bit of The Godfather as well as some exploration of homosexuality) and mashed them together in a blatantly obvious manner. Throughout the entirety of this book, I felt assaulted by what seem to be Chabon's failed and superficial attempts to make this work a masterpiece. Chabon tries too hard with this work, so hard in fact, that he loses all of the originality and endearment that had the potential of achieving. To avoid a long and repetitive rant, I will end here by saying that there are MANY much better books to devote your time to than this one. Please, don't waste your time on "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" -- it is an attempt, but nothing more.
sweetdog More than 1 year ago
The first book of Michael Chabon that I read was "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." Based upon my thorough enjoyment of that book I read "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" and was hooked on the author. The characters were very believable and his style of being very descriptive makes you feel as if you are riding along in the car with him. I was sorry to have finished the book so I picked up "Wonder Boys" and enjoyed that just as much. Now I am going to tackle "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." I believe Michael Chabon has become my new favorite author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Art Bechstein was finally able to leave Washington, D.C., and his mob father behind, he ran to Pittsburgh to attend school. His last summer in the sweltering city proved to be an exciting and intriguing adventure. The handsome and personable Arthur Lecomte introduces Art to women, sex and a new way of life, but with the arrival of Arthur¿s mysterious friend, Cleveland, Art must face his father and the ¿family¿ he tried to forget. Michael Chabon¿s debut novel, set in the 80s, is a coming-of-age tale of excess, sex and friendship. It paints a different side of the crumbling steel city, a side of grit and grime, where the unexpected is lurking behind every corner. Chabon¿s writing is colorful and imaginative, but the story lacks real excitement. It is slow to take off and quickly fizzles. It is a story that is always on the edge of breaking through, but never pushes the reader over the ledge. ¿Mysteries¿ is an easy read that doesn¿t force the reader to think too much. In short, if you don¿t want a tough plot that twists and turns like a rollercoaster, then this book is it.
Matt_Sessions on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A coming-of-age story that packs on the sentimentality, often justifiably. The plot seems a bit forced from time to time - particularly at the conclusion - but always moves along speedily. The characters do much of the novel's heavy lifting, adding intrigue, humor, and warmth that bring what could be dry melodrama to a glowing story. Chabon is clearly a skilled writer, offering playfully eloquent descriptions and piercing insight. THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH is a mostly-rewarding first novel, held back by its blankly unfulfilling conclusion.
traciolsen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon is delicious; his prose style is scrumptious. This is amazing in its own right, but more so because it was his Master's thesis. Damn. And now I get to keep this book, because I had borrowed it from Katy but then accidentally left it out in the rain because I am a terrible person.
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I cannot get a personal handle on Michael Chabon. Sometimes I think he¿s phenomenal and sometimes he leaves me completely cold. In this case, he just left me somewhere in between. The story is about one summer in the life of Art Berchstein. He falls in a couple of different loves and has to sort out what it means to be who he is. Yep, your basic coming of age story, but Chabon can never let it be normal. First, he always writes well. Second, this coming of age includes coming to grips with a gangster family background. (This is nicely underplayed until the book builds. In other words, it seems a throwaway, and then becomes important.)Really good stuff throughout. And yet, at the end of it all, it still didn¿t move me as much as I would expect. A good story and good characters. Yet it still ended with the ¿what do I care about these people¿ that often plagues these angsty coming of age stories.It is not to say that I don¿t recommend this book. However, I¿m not sure I would recommend it to anyone else, either.
Antholo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't have much to say about T.M.O.P. except that "it was okay." I didn't dislike it, but I didn't really connect with it. It didn't grab, challenge, molest, or seduce me. It was okay.
talimckell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd actually give it a 3.5. A book that kept me interested, but did not blow me away. If you like bildungsroman, you'll probably like this.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book makes me happy because it is not perfect, but it is good and it shows the promise of what's to come for Chabon as a writer. And that is enjoyable.
lenoreva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My friend and I were in the middle of a converstation about some very strange relationships we had been in with men, when she suddenly shouted "You must read 'The Myteries of Pittsburgh' by Chabon!" So I picked it up. I found it to be a light read (pretty good for the airplane). Although I enjoyed the character of Phlox, I was pretty disapointed with the rest of the book. Poor Phlox is all I can say. I don't think this is a horrible book necessarily, but it certainly does not deserve 5 stars. Basically, the characters bored me and I found myself skimming over large sections. Worth the time only if you have nothing better to do, or if you a girl who has ever lived through having your boyfriend dump you for a man and want to re-live your pain.
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Art Bechstein, fresh out of college, notices an attractive young man in the library, no sooner is he outside the library than this attractive young man, the very appealing and flamboyant Arthur is standing beside him. In addition the attentions of Arthur, Art struggles with his uncertain feelings for Phlox, the strange girl who works in the library. So begins a summer of friendships, sex and parties, and a beautiful relationship that eventually dispels any doubts Art might have had about his sexuality. Add to that the hint of gangsters and the mysterious smoke from a factory; it all contributes to captivating read. This is a thoroughly engrossing and interesting story, beautifully written and full of vitality, wit and humour.
emanate28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have no doubt that Michael Chabon is a unique writer with remarkable writing style...but it's just that I couldn't understand what he was saying. Maybe I'm not familiar enough with gangster vocab and practices, but I sadly understood less than 10% of what was going on...
Asperula on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Michael Chabon and am glad to have finally read his first published novel. I liked the book very much, but when I got to the end, I knew why he wrote it. It was so he could include the last beautiful paragraph:"When I remember that dizzy summer, that dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer, it seems that in those days I ate my lunches, smelled another's skin, noticed a shade of yellow, even simply sat, with greater lust and hopefulness- and that I lusted with greater faith, hoped with greater abandon. The people I loved were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything."
citygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer: insightful and lyrical, he offers descriptions so original that, as a writer, I am simultaneously inspired and disheartened by his abilities. He reminds me of Updike, but more personal and easier to read. This book is Chabon's first. It is the flawed first book of a brilliant writer. Definitely worth reading, but the pacing was very much off, so it gets three and a half stars instead of four.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The action in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh takes place the summer after Art Bechstein graduates from university. He's always led a pretty protected and risk-averse life, and he's not really sure what he wants to do, but he knows that he is looking for something bigger, wilder, more exotic. At the start of the summer he falls in with a crowd of people who seem to fulfill this need - they have all recreated themselves as Gatsby-esque Wild Young Things. But his involvement with them sets off a sequence of events - with consequences that spiral out of control.This was Chabon's first novel, written while he was still a student, and it shows: there are signs of the style, imagination and playfulness which make Kavalier & Clay as good as it is - but this feels as if he is just trying to fit too many ideas in - and some of it (Phlox's personality, Cleveland's descent) are a bit too cartoonishly drawn.
jwmiller5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I went to school at Carnegie Mellon and I can remember loking out the window in my Corporate Finance class to see the Cloud Factory hard at work. The authors' comments are eye-opening. My wife is a writer and reading Michael Chabon's comments reassured me about the processes I see her go through.
Jeffrey414 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book reminded me of the Donna Tartt book, ¿Secret History¿ we read earlier in the book club. That Chabon began writing this when he was twenty-two and published it at twenty-five as a thesis for his Master¿s degree made it even more incredible for me. He develops his characters far better than many contemporary writers. This was another coming-of-age book about relationships, college, finding oneself, drinking too much, drugs, and plenty of sexual tension. The lure of intelligent, wealthy, outgoing yet disturbed friends and wild sexual liaisons. `Art¿ enters into every one of his relationships with trepidation and anxiety. His relationship with his wealthy, critical, `gangster¿ father was quite disturbing. I found myself cheering for Phlox as Art was contemplating Arthur or her as his true love. I was also wondering whether this was an autobiographical work and possibly mirroring his own sexual history. Chabon is married and has children but revealed that he in fact has had early sexual relationships with women and men. I enjoyed this book. I was startled that a story covering a single summer could be so packed with adventure, intensity, and drama. Possibly only published because his advisor was a novelist and sent his thesis to his publisher!? Too bad John Kennedy Toole (¿A Confederacy of Dunces¿) didn¿t have the same advisor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The problem with reading Michael Chabon is it is so good you do not want to stop but you do as you want desperately to stop the journey from ending. This is my 4th visit to Chabon-land and, as always, I enjoyed the trip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michael Chabon was truly at his best early in his career.
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carlosmock More than 1 year ago
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon This is the second time I've read this book. I wonder now why I bothered. It is remarkable and it astonishes me every time, how many published authors can't write. Meet Art Bechstein, son of a prominent DC gangster who is torn between the mysterious Phlox Lombardi and Arthur Lecomte. Even though this is a coming of age story, the love triangle is stupid and boring. By placing characters without any kind of fictional value, almost like they were just the names written in ink, without any kind of background, almost erratic behavior, Michael Chabon tries to paint «summer of love» and fails miserably. Oh, we have everything here that modern man (and women) want, for instance, struggle for identity, spitting on upper-class, homosexual intercourse, mysterious yet scarred educated young people, who, regardless of their education do nothing at all. But what we lack is that line that will hold the story together, so that we have no that horrid feeling that author has just stamped some scenes on the paper and published it, hoping that just the sight of his name will sell the book. What we lack here is competence in narration. How would you feel like if someone bragged about something for a whole day and actually said two or three sentences that were logically or even semantically connected? Even though the author meant Pittsburgh to be a character, the author fails miserably to show the reader any of Pittsburgh's mysteries. I suggest you don't waste your time with this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago