I am rereading this (and will likely get around to other Michael Chabon books later) and for the most part I really enjoyed the reread. This is a second novel that is so far superior to a first novel that there was always the clear indication of talent. And even as a second novel there’s a precociousness here. Chabon was 32 or so when this was published, but the narrator is a burnt-out contemporary novelist working at a university who is somewhere around page 2000 of his would-be fourth novel. He’s written and rewritten and rewritten the thing and while that’s a lot of pages, many of them are simply retreads of other scenes. We later learn when a character reads it that it involves things like 40 page descriptions of forests and the like.
Anyway, it’s the Friday before the local literary conference where he’s expected to handle various responsibilities. The town (Pittsburgh) will be visited by writing dignitaries, and everyone will be on their worst behaviors. The novel begins with Grady Tripp telling us about a novelist and short story writer who initiated him as a writer, a kind of literary awakening, and how this person’s career, and worse, life, have been a dragon he’s been chasing for decades. Also, this morning, his wife has left him.
So what we also soon learn is that his literary agent, a longtime friend who went to MFA school with him is coming to town for the weekend and wants to see the novel. We also soon learn that his department chair, with whom he has been having an affair, is pregnant. The novel then follows the events and misadventures of the long weekend conference with some drinking, a lot of weed, and too hiding from oneself.
The novel is still a lot of fun, somewhat marred by the unfortunate early 90s casuistry toward transpeople.