Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Undercover: What We're Reading in April

A look back at "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" as it turns 30, plus two literary events coming up in April.




 

It’s the beginning of the summer and I’m standing in the lobby of a thousand-story grand hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets, to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art deco summit, where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 rpm, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spine of a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink.”

So begins “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” the stunning debut novel by Michael Chabon published 30 years ago this month. Chabon’s tale of one very eventful Pittsburgh summer in the life of twenty-something Art Bechstein, a gangster’s son and starry-eyed romantic, continues to speak to and influence local writers.

“In 1988, I was living in Regent Square, adjusting to city life … Immediately it became my guidebook to the city,” says Rege Behe, a frequent contributor to the Tribune-Review. Chabon’s rendering of Pittsburgh, as much a character in the novel as Art, Cleveland and Phlox, is intoxicating. Who hasn’t, upon finishing the book, gone in search of The Cloud Factory and The Lost Neighborhood. They’ve become mythic in their way. The Cloud Factory still sits there in Oakland, pumping out perfect pillows of white clouds into the Pittsburgh sky.

Chabon’s dynamic, fulsome prose made Pittsburgh, a city that in the 1980s seemed to have lost all of its charm and mystery with the death of the steel industry, new again. As Art says in the book, “familiarity and unconcern with Pittsburgh turned suddenly to arousal and love.” The book has that same effect on the reader. Mason Radkoff, author of “The Heart of June,” contends “the magic of the sentences” transforms the city into a “romanticized locale rife with possibility.” Possibility felt in very short supply in those days.

Chabon’s Pittsburgh was “a place where a certain kind of life might happen, the kind which I had previously, naively, associated only with the great cultural capitals: Boston, New York, San Francisco,” suggests Jeffrey Condran, co-founder of Braddock Avenue Books.

Perhaps what keeps readers returning to “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” is its eternal youthfulness, the fresh exuberance of the characters and prose, and its mission to, as Art says, “hold aloft the enchanted flag of summertime.”

“It’s a celebration of youth,” says Littsburgh Founder Rachel Ekstrom Courage, “but — for a Pittsburgher — it’s also such a compelling feeling of falling in love with the ‘Burgh. For anyone who’s spent time here, it’s a real symbol of the hold this city can have on you, no matter where you live.”  
 



 

Speak Up

April 18/ Poet, performance artist, playwright and disability activist Jillian Weise reads from her work for the Disability Studies Reading Group supported by the University of Pittsburgh. Weise’s debut poetry collection, “The Amputee’s Guide to Sex” (2007), was described by The Los Angeles Times as “a fearless dissection of the taboo and the hidden.” The second collection for the self-proclaimed cyborg, “The Book of Goodbyes” (2013), won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. (The University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning, Room 501, Oakland)

April 15/ Poetry and music make for some very fine bedfellows indeed. Let this perfect pairing of the Romantic and the Modern bid adieu to the cold weather as six local poets (Jen Ashburn, Sheila Carter-Jones, Lori Jakiela, Adriana Ramirez, Sheila Squillante and Don Wentworth) read a selection from new poems inspired by each of the 24 songs of Franz Schubert’s masterwork song cycle “Winterreise” (Winter Journey), whose themes of exile, alienation and lost love speak to our current cultural moment. A complete, uninterrupted performance of the Schubert cycle by musicians Daniel Teadt and Benjamin Binder will follow. (Duquesne University, PNC Recital Hall, Bluff; 412/232-3853, duq.edu/academics/schools/music/calendar-of-events/schubert-on-the-bluff)
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Duke Freshman Propels March Madness to Another Level

Zion Williamson makes this year’s NCAA Tournament, always fascinating on its own merits, even more of a can’t-miss event.

A New Steel Curtain Is Rising

Will the new Steelers zone at Kennywood Park be ready in time for opening day?

Refucilo Winery Brings a Taste of Argentina to the North Side

Dr. Juan Antonio Lora's passion project is linked to youthful memories.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Spirit

The lauded Lawrenceville hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

The 400-Word Review: Us

Jordan Peele's new film is terrifying, essential viewing.

Why These Pittsburgh Brides Said Yes to the … Jumpsuit?

Comfort, mobility and style were all considerations for these brides’ perfect wedding wardrobe.

Pittsburgh Tops the List For First-Time Homebuyers

The report from Bankrate.com touts Pittsburgh’s affordability, job market and culture.

On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

Local designers say the fabric can give a room a luxurious feel. Here’s how to incorporate it into your home.

Spring Clean Your Attic at This Reuse Festival

Just in time for Earth Day, local organizations are giving you the opportunity to recycle, learn about sustainability and get rid of unwanted stuff at home.

Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

After a two-year hiatus, Michele and Cindy Savoia's beloved restaurant and bar returns to the South Side.

7 Scenic Day Trips with Spectacular Views

By car, train, bicycle or foot, head outside to take in these unforgettable vistas.

Restaurant Review: LeoGreta is a Gem in the Making

With a few tweaks and a little time to settle in, LeoGreta will be the restaurant we all wish we had in our neighborhood.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' Last World Series

Forty years removed from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most recent championship, the “We Are Family” Pirates reflect on the myriad differences between their game and the one played on the North Shore today.

Foreign Investment: Pittsburgh's Business with Israel

Pittsburgh has a robust Jewish and Israeli community, with scores of programs, both social and academic, bridging the ocean. The relationship, however, is increasingly about business.

Grandstand Gear: The Ultimate Baseball Scoring Pencil

A Pirates fan says she designed the perfect pencil for keeping score at baseball games — and it’s a hit.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


A New Steel Curtain Is Rising

A New Steel Curtain Is Rising

Will the new Steelers zone at Kennywood Park be ready in time for opening day?

Comments

Pittsburgh Tops the List For First-Time Homebuyers

Pittsburgh Tops the List For First-Time Homebuyers

The report from Bankrate.com touts Pittsburgh’s affordability, job market and culture.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Refucilo Winery Brings a Taste of Argentina to the North Side

Refucilo Winery Brings a Taste of Argentina to the North Side

Dr. Juan Antonio Lora's passion project is linked to youthful memories.

Comments

Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

After a two-year hiatus, Michele and Cindy Savoia's beloved restaurant and bar returns to the South Side.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.

Comments

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Spirit

After Dark Hall of Fame: Spirit

The lauded Lawrenceville hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments

It's 2019. We Need a Modern, Dine-In Cinema

It's 2019. We Need a Modern, Dine-In Cinema

Pittsburgh is long overdue for a new movie palace where you can get an actual meal brought to your seat.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Duke Freshman Propels March Madness to Another Level

Duke Freshman Propels March Madness to Another Level

Zion Williamson makes this year’s NCAA Tournament, always fascinating on its own merits, even more of a can’t-miss event.

Comments

Brown and Bell are Gone – What the Steelers Need to do Next

Brown and Bell are Gone – What the Steelers Need to do Next

Whether the Steelers are better or worse off, whether they’re culpable or deserve to be applauded for finally resolving two of their biggest problems remains to be seen.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Us

The 400-Word Review: Us

Jordan Peele's new film is terrifying, essential viewing.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Triple Frontier

The 400-Word Review: Triple Frontier

Netflix's action flick is pretty good. It's also exactly what the streaming service should be providing.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Why These Pittsburgh Brides Said Yes to the … Jumpsuit?

Why These Pittsburgh Brides Said Yes to the … Jumpsuit?

Comfort, mobility and style were all considerations for these brides’ perfect wedding wardrobe.

Comments

The Big Fake Wedding Offers Everything But the “I Dos”

The Big Fake Wedding Offers Everything But the “I Dos”

This nontraditional wedding showcase gives couples real-world insight into planning their big day.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

Local designers say the fabric can give a room a luxurious feel. Here’s how to incorporate it into your home.

Comments

Leanne & Steve Dish on Season 2 of "Restored by the Fords"

Leanne & Steve Dish on Season 2 of "Restored by the Fords"

Siblings Leanne and Steve Ford talk renovating Steve’s new warehouse, Leanne’s new baby — and their two new HGTV shows.

Comments