Michael Chabon Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Often associated by critics with the coterie of young writers who emerged during the mid-1980’s—the “brat pack” that included such figures as Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz, and Bret Easton Ellis—Michael Chabon (SHAY-bahn) enjoyed national renown following the critical and popular success of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Chabon earned a B.A. in English in 1984 from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.F.A. in 1987 from the University of California, Irvine, where he studied under Donald Heiney (MacDonald Harris). Inspired after winning a 1987 Mademoiselle short-story contest, Chabon wrote The Mysteries of Pittsburgh for his master’s thesis. After Heiney sent the manuscript to the literary agent Mary Evans at the Virginia Barber Agency in New York, William Morrow and Company purchased the hard-cover rights for the manuscript during a private auction for $155,000—one of the highest figures ever paid for a first novel.

A Bildungsroman in the tradition of such works as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise (1921) and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951), Chabon’s novel focuses on the emotional and romantic evolution of Art Bechstein, whose recent college graduation ushers in the final summer of his youth. The son of a powerful gangster, Art encounters a dizzying array of people during his summer progress, including his namesake, the charming homosexual Arthur Lecomte; the bewitching Francophile Phlox; and Arthur’s best friend, the self-conscious opportunist and figure of legendary proportion, Cleveland Arning. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh finds its narrative strength in Chabon’s lyrical descriptions of Art’s evolution as he examines his conflicting feelings regarding his father’s iniquitous profession while also attempting to reconcile himself with his sexual attractions to both Arthur and Phlox. Although Art emerges from the summer bereft of the friendships that had brought about his personal transformation, the exuberance of Chabon’s prose reveals the first, precarious moments of Art’s incipient adulthood: “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.”

A national best-seller, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh rewarded Chabon with tremendous critical acclaim, yet the sudden onslaught of fame confronted the introverted Chabon with new, problematic regions of personal exposure in the name of marketing, including...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Michael Chabon (pronounced “shaybin”) was born in Washington, D.C. He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to study creative writing as a Regents Fellow at the University of California at Irvine. He submitted his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to his graduate adviser, novelist MacDonald Harris, who then recommended it to his literary agent. The book was accepted for publication when Chabon was twenty-three years old. Chabon subsequently completed his master’s of fine arts degree. The success of his first novel plunged Chabon into a glamorous world of endorsement offers (deals from the Gap and People magazine)—all of which he rejected. He settled with his first wife, Lolly Groth, in Seattle, Washington. After their divorce he married Ayelet Waldman and settled first in San Francisco, then in Los Angeles.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Michael Chabon was born on May 24, 1963, in Washington, D.C., and raised partly in Columbia, Maryland, and partly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents divorced when Chabon was an adolescent. During this time the young Chabon turned to comic books and works of genre fiction (such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories) to escape the domestic strife in his life. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning a B.A. in English in 1984; from there he attended the master of fine arts program at the University of California at Irvine, where he would earn his degree in 1987. More important, one of his advisers at Irvine, novelist Donald Heiney, was so impressed with Chabon’s thesis that he sent the manuscript to his own agent; the novel was purchased for $155,000 (almost an unheard-of sum for a first literary novel in 1987) and was published to great advance praise. That same year, Chabon married poet Lollie Groth, a union that would end with their divorce in 1991.

For the next several years, Chabon worked on a novel that he planned to title “Fountain City,” about environmental activism and a baseball park in Florida, among other things; the novel became longer and longer, until Chabon realized that it was not succeeding and put it aside to begin work on a novel about a man unable to finish a sprawling novel, Wonder Boys. Chabon married attorney Ayelet Waldman in 1993, with whom he would eventually have three children (Sophie, Ezekiel, and Ida-Rose). The successful adaptation of Wonder Boys into a film (directed by Curtis Hanson) released in 2000 combined with the author’s thriving sales to make him financially independent and able to focus on his work. Chabon’s second wife, Waldman has published a number of mystery novels in a series known as the Mommy-Track Mysteries; her successful work in genre fiction parallels Chabon’s own interest in the field. Since his work on Spider-Man 2 (directed by Sam Raimi), Chabon has balanced his busy life writing fiction with work on screenplays.


(Novels for Students)

Michael Chabon (pronounced shay-bon) was born May 24, 1963, in Washington, D.C., to Robert and Sharon Chabon. His father worked as a lawyer,...

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