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For the next installment in an ongoing series focusing on Pittsburgh's best-known writers, we speak with the University of Pittsburgh professor who mentored a young Michael Chabon and provided the inspiration for one of his most memorable characters. Novelist Chuck Kinder is recently retired from Pitt's Creative Writing program, which he directed for years, and is currently working on a volume of poetry. Chabon's new novel, Telegraph Avenue, was released earlier this month.
Michael Chabon, Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Set in industrial Pittsburgh in the mid-eighties, Michael Chabon's breakthrough coming-of-age novel chronicles the last summer of Art Bechstein's youth. Art meets the witty and beautiful Arthur Lecomte, who then introduces Art to the equally stunning Jane, her boyfriend, the legendary Cleveland, and worldly, exotic, and slightly eccentric Phlox. In the course of one summer, this band of colorful friends guides and thwarts Art in surprising ways as he confronts himself, his family, his sexuality, and the heartache of growing up.
- Harper Collins
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys
Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two
unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart. - Villard
Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones
The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the gargantuan powers of imagination, intelligence, and style of one of the greatest writers of this or any other century. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. More playful and approachable than the fictions themselves are Borges’s Prologues, brief elucidations that offer the uninitiated a passageway into the whirlwind of Borges’s genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his skepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between
Chuck Kinder, Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale
Kinder, who has taught English at the University of Pittsburgh since 1980 and directs Pitt's writing program, was educated at West Virginia University and Stanford University. At Stanford, Kinder became close friends with fellow student Raymond Carver, who eventually earned notoriety and critical acclaim as a short story writer and poet. Their relationship — a saga of friendship, ambition and debauchery — inspired "Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale."
While "Honeymooners" has captivated audiences since its first publication in 2001, it took Kinder nearly 20 years to complete. His struggle with the manuscript — which at one point reached 3,000 pages — was local legend at the University of Pittsburgh, and inspired his former student Michael Chabon to base Grady Tripp, a character in Chabon's 1995 novel "Wonder Boys," on Kinder.
- CMU Press