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Every time I read something by Michael Chabon it both depresses and uplifts me. Depresses, because I realize just how far I need to go as an author, and uplifts because I see what he can do with the English language. These are the same feelings I have when I read Pat Conroy and James Lee Burke. While our styles could not be more different, I readily admit I'm envious of Michael's God-given talent, and theirs.

Wonder Boys is a delightfully funny and poignant story of a boozy, pothead, author who fears his best work may be behind him. The hero, afflicted with writer's block, has been trying to finish a book he started seven years ago. To add to his troubles, he is, by his own admission, a serial adulterer, though not completely without morals. He steadfastly tries to hold the line against the attentions of a willing female student, smitten with him. His life is further complicated because his marriage is falling apart and his mistress has just announced she's pregnant. She, by the way, is the chancellor of the college where he teaches and the wife of his boss, the English Department's Dean of Students. On top of all this, his best friend and editor is due to arrive in town and champing at the bit to see the novel he's been toiling away at. Unfortunately he told him it was finished. He may have been drunk at the time.

As a character study this is a wonderful book. I wish Michael would turn them out more quickly. But he's probably exhausted from lugging around the Pulitzer Prize he won for "The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay."

Anyone who doesn't read this fine novel is missing a bet. The pace is excellent and the writing fluid and evocative.

Robert Daniels

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