rating: 3 of 5 stars
I started out really not liking this book. It felt as though it was written pretentiously--like its narrator was trying to be Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye), Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby), and Gene (A Separate Peace) all at once, affectations and everything. Yes, I ate up the Pittsburgh references (Dirty O! Bloomfield! CMU! Shadyside!), but there weren't enough descriptions to make me feel as though I was actually there, apart from the elusive Cloud Factory.
However, as I read on, I became increasingly interested in the narrator's relationship with his friends and girlfriend--mostly because they were such interesting and nuanced characters. Without that curious supporting cast, I doubt this book could have held any water. Now, however, I am interested to see how it translated to a movie. I actually think that it might have made a better movie than it made a book, although much of Art's inner sexuality turmoil will probably be lost in the translation. However, I imagine that the "action scenes" will come alive better on screen than they do through Chabon's writing. I never felt any passion in the sex scenes, or drama in the scenes between Art and his father, even though I understood that I was supposed to feel these things. And the final chase scene was so complicated and direction-obsessed, it lost all climactic value.
The beauty of this novel was in the relationships between the characters. Art and Arthur, Art and Phlox, Art and Cleveland, Arthur and Cleveland--they're all fascinating and intricate relationships that Chabon develops with necessary care. And because he created such unique and complex characters from the start, he makes it easier upon himself to flesh out the complexities that they weave between one another.
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