Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let Me Tell You About... Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

A fresh-faced high school graduate, that's what I was when I first came across Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys for the first time. I heard about through the grapevine that we call Hollywood. I obtain a VHS copy of the film the book inspired. It hooked me. I can't say if it was Michael Douglas's portrayal of Tripp, Robert Downey , Jr.'s Crabtree that inspired me to read. Maybe it was Tobey Maguire's rendition of James Leer that hit close to home. Or maybe it was because, at the time, I was madly in love with Katie Holmes and wanted to know more about her character. Either way, I set off to read the novel.

Because I was a fresh-faced high school graduate, the summer of 2001 - hell, summer, fall, winter of 2001 and all of 2002 - was spent with little ambition to attend college. What could college teach me that I couldn't learn on my own? Besides, after spending three years as a slacker smart ass, I fell into a deep anxiety bout my senior year - there was no way I was going to spend another year in that school - attempting to graduate. Couple with my lack of ambition to work, I spent a lot of time at the local library - then modestly called Edinburg Public Library.

I read through several books then. Some by well known authors and some by not-so-well-known. Wonder Boys was the first book I read by Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh being the second and last book I read. While I love The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, it didn't draw me as quickly as Wonder Boys did. Why? Because I was Wonder Boys, at least that's what I thought at the time (and sometimes, whenever I pick up the novel, I still feel that I am). I connected with the trifecta that was Grady Tripp, Terry Crabtree, and James Leer. I loved them as I have loved no other characters - not even my own.

Wonder Boys became my bible, my calling. If not for that week I spent reading and rereading Chabon's words, I may not have walked to the local college and filled out an application. I might not have enrolled in whatever creative writing course I could. I would not have met the fabulous mentors who are probably shaking their heads with disgust at my poorly structured book blog. (Come on, guys, not all things have to be written properly.)

Eleven years later, I find myself sitting with my dog-eared copy of Wonder Boys - which I bought with my financial aid money back in 2003 or 2004 - scratching out the outline that would become this post. It's a book I pick up every year or every other year, depending on my mood. Whenever I find myself stuck, confused with what to read next, I turned to it like religion. I sit back and read, discovering new things and fondly remembering words like my own memories. I now work for the local library - now called Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library - but the copy I fell in love with is no longer a part of our catalog. 

As I sat down for lunch today, a co-worker asked me what I was reading. When I responded, he asked the usual question, "Is it any good?" "It's actually one of my favorites," I said. 

"You're rereading it?" Almost in disbelief. 

Yeah. I'm rereading it. Again and again and again.

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