The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: a charming novel about beautiful people bonking

Michael Chabon was heralded as a bright new voice in fiction in the late 1980s for his precocious debut. Does it still live up to the hype?

The economics of publishing have always been baffling, but never more so than in the late 1980s, when unknown writers frequently found themselves the recipients of stonking great advances. There are all sorts of reasons, most of twhich boil down to a heady combination of madness and hubris. But one explanation makes sense: huge advances got people talking. Spending $100,000 on an author was still cheaper than paying an equivalent amount for marketing, with the bonus of making people desperate to know what all the fuss was about.

Related: Fiction to look out for in 2017

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Not the Booker prize 2017: ‘extraordinary’ Elizabeth Strout joins final shortlist

The 2016 judges have picked Strout’s novel on small-town America as the sixth book on this year’s shortlist. Now, we are on the hunt for three new judges ...

The 2017 Not the Booker shortlist is now complete, with our three judges choosing Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout as the wildcard entry.

Tracey Hope, Dana LeMarr and Sara Richards, the judges from the final round of last year’s competition, have spent the past few weeks reading and discussing the novels on our very long list and emailed me on Friday to let me know their decision.

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August’s reading group: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

We have come to know him as one of the finest novelists of our era, but this neglected book began his career with a bang. So this month, we go back to his future

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon has emerged from the hat and will be this month’s reading group choice. It’s a fascinating pick. Even if it weren’t interesting for its own sake, it would be worth reading because it’s the first novel from one of the finest writers of our era. I’m keen to return to the first appearance from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and - doubters be damned – Telegraph Avenue. Was all that dazzling accomplishment on display in his debut, written when he was 23 and still a student at the University of California, Irvine?

If advances are anything to go by, ...

Reading group: which book about gay life should we read in August?

To mark the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation in the UK, please help choose a novel to mark the occasion. There are hundreds to choose from This month we’re asking for nominations for books that can bring us a bit of Pride. As you’re probably aware, 27 July marked 50 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act entered the statute books. Stating that “a homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of 21 years”, the Act only partially decriminalised gay relationships, but is regarded as the beginning of more liberal public attitudes to sexuality. Fifty years on, the anniversary is being celebrated across the country, from London’s Tate Britain to National Trust events on Hadrian’s Wall. Related: ‘At last I felt I fitted in’: writers on the books that helped them come out Continue reading...

Reading group: which book about gay life should we read in August?

To mark the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation in the UK, please help choose a novel to mark the occasion. There are hundreds to choose from This month we’re asking for nominations for books that can bring us a bit of Pride. As you’re probably aware, 27 July marked 50 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act entered the statute books. Stating that “a homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of 21 years”, the Act only partially decriminalised gay relationships, but is regarded as the beginning of more liberal public attitudes to sexuality. Fifty years on, the anniversary is being celebrated across the country, from London’s Tate Britain to National Trust events on Hadrian’s Wall. Related: ‘At last I felt I fitted in’: writers on the books that helped them come out Continue reading...