Being obliged to confront, for the first time in twenty-five years, sentences written at a time in my life when I could still go two or three days without looking like I needed a shave, was a painful and at times horrifying experience, and one that I hope never to repeat.
First edition, signed on title-page. Chabon is hard on his younger self as he re-reads and annotates—often employing a yellow marker—this spirited novel of a young man embarking on adulthood. “This book was written in a prolonged state of exaltation and hubris, by a young man, and annotated by a considerably older one, in acute embarrassment and mortification.” His plan was originally to highlight “those passages which had clearly been written in imitation of other writers, chief among them Roth, Proust & Fitzgerald” and then to likewise highlight “the most egregious instances of overblown, youthfully purple or generally pretentious prose. But a reader will require no assistance in locating such passages and in any case both projects would have left almost no passage in the book devoid of a fluorescent Day-Glo streak.” Instead, many of the numerous annotations draw connections to events in Chabon’s personal life. Phlox’s comment (in chapter 10) that “vampires are so beautiful,” prompts this note: “What a freak! Verbatim. She was a total babe, though.” The note “Verbatim” appears in the margins frequently. “Literal description of actual photo of a girl I knew,” he writes on p.87. “This passage written, along with one or two others, while high on marijuana.” On pp. 42-43 he recalls his tenure working for Atlantic Books, a Pittsburgh chain, “in considerable misery before finally escaping from the dungeon to the bookstore paradise of Jay’s Book Stall, on Fifth Avenue—since shuttered forever.”
CHABON, Michael (b. 1963). The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1988. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.