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Werewolves in Their Youth [Paperback]

Michael Chabon
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Mar 2008

The second collection of short stories from the highly acclaimed author of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY and WONDER BOYS.

There are the two boys of the title story, locked in their own world of fantasy and make-believe, reaching out to each other to survive the terrible prospect of fatherlessness. ‘House Hunting’ shows us the grim spectacle of a couple whose marriage is in its death throes, and whose search for a happy home is doomed; in another story a couple struggle to overcome the effects of a brutal rape. Elsewhere, a family therapist comes face to face with the dark secret of his childhood, and an American football star down on his luck makes his peace with his father. The collection culminates in a daring and wonderfully baroque horror story, ‘In the Black Mill’, which chronicles the terrifying fate that befalls an archaeologist as he uncovers cannibalism and ritual sacrifice in a gloomy Pennsylvanian town.

Serious in their subject matter, yet shot through with wit, humour and compassion, these nine short stories are testament to Chabon’s ability to weave together comedy and tragedy with unforgettable results.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857029852
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857029857
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of seven novels - including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union - two collections of short stories, and one other work of non-fiction. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and children.

Product Description


‘The young star of American letters, "star" not in the current sense of cheap celebrity, but in the old sense of brightly shining hope. He is a writer not only of rare skill and wit but of self-evident and immensely appealing generosity.’ Washington Post

‘What’s most alive in this book is the witty and resonant prose that has always been Chabon’s strength, a prose in which sharp observation shades into metaphor’ New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Michael Chabon is the author of two collections of short stories, ‘A Model World’ and ‘Werewolves in their Youth’, the novels ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’, ‘Wonder Boys’, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’, ‘The Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ and ‘Telegraph Avenue’, and the non-fiction books ‘Maps and Legends and Manhood for Amateurs’. ‘Wonder Boys’ has been made into a film starring Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. and ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, Esquire and Playboy. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and their four children.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb introduction to a talented writer 7 July 2009
At its core, 'Werewolves in Their Youth' is a collection of eloquent and moving stories about the fragility of human relationships. Yet despite this fragility, you never quite shake the sense that in the alternately amusing, profound and downbeat stories in here, loneliness is as hopeless an alternative as conventional community. This book is, as a result, made of odd stuff indeed.

Chabon's characters are frequently outsiders, or people breaking through the limits of conventions both societal and self-imposed. The family unit remains the focus, the scattering of individual pieces of the post-nuclear American family. As such, the stories are bound by opposites- childbirth and child death, marriage and divorce, separation and reconciliation. Yet they remain effective in their own right.

The collection opens with the title story, 'Werewolves in their Youth', a story of absent fathers that manages to enter convincingly into a child's perspective. The father in 'Son of the Wolfman' is also absent, albeit in a more startling fashion, yet the stories follow a similar path of withdrawl and reconciliation. Or there's stories like the wrly comic 'House Hunting', where a drunk estate agent serves up a timely reminder of the innate difficulty of marriage to a couple of erotically uninspired newlyweds.

The stories here run the risk of being 'worthy'- the topics they handle are inherantly serious. In the hands of a less skilful writer, tales involving the mental scars of rape, paternal abandonment and childhood sexual trauma would seem too... forced. Too dramatic. Yet Chabon manages to tell his stories without emotional hysteria, managing nonetheless to get a rich vein of meaning from his motley band of pathos-ridden misfits.
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5.0 out of 5 stars if you like this sorta thing then recommend it 1 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this was a book for my partner and she has barely managed to put it down, as it is several stories rolled into one she says it makes it less arduous than some long books or if you dont have time to read all at once

arrived quickly and in perfect condition
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I'm not anybody. You're not anybody either." 18 May 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first story in this effervescent collection of short stories is the titular one which describes the difficult relationship a nerdy, overweight boy, Paul, has with his next door neighbour's son Timothy, a kid who lives through comic books and who currently believes he is a werewolf. Timothy is large and sturdy and because of his utter belief in himself is a nuisance at playtimes and especially with the girls, who treat him with contempt and tease him by turns. Paul hates Timothy, but because he lives next door he has been unfairly linked with Timothy, and the headteacher has habitually relied on Paul to bring him back to something like normal behaviour. The boys are pre-teen (I would think around 10-12). To make matters worse Paul's Mum has banished his father from the house and in common with many children in such a situation, Paul's feelings are a mixture of shame, distress and relief that he no longer has to listen to their rows or witness his father's impotent violence. The plot skitters delightfully towards the absurd but utterly realist ending.

Chabon's gifts in these stories are obvious: he is deeply empathetic towards outsiders, especially the victims of broken marriages (men, women and children), or random and sometimes horrific events. Only in the last story In The Black Mill, did I lose my concentration as a horror story built somewhat unlikely premises and fell apart in a conclusion that merely set another puzzle.

Overwhelmingly, these stories are glittering, gracious and damned good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chabon offers masterful snapshots of the human condition. 20 April 1999
By Peter M. Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
In each of these nine stories, Chabon--particularly noted for his stylistic accomplishments--manages to flesh out a variety of characters in only a few pages, and sometimes in a few words. His sentences frequently seem to reach perfection, each word fitting precisely with a satisfying snap like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle, without the disappointing sting of over-cleverness.
As I read each wholly original story, I couldn't help but respond frequently with a knowing smile and the warm realization of recognition. I've smelled that smell and heard that sound ("There was a stink of chlorine from the waterfall in the atrium where the chimes of the elevators echoed all night with a sound like a dental instrument hitting a cold tile floor"). I've seen that place, even though I've never been there ("Plunkettsburg was at first glance unprepossessing--a low, rusting little city, with tarnished onion domes and huddled houses, drab as an armful of dead leaves strewn along the ground"). I've felt that feeling ("The next day I lay in bed, aching, sore, and suffering from that peculiar brand of spiritual depression born largely of suppressed fear"). And I most assuredly know that person ("Oriole was a big, broad-backed woman, ample and plain and quadrangular as the state of Iowa itself. Hugging her, Eddie felt comforted, as by the charitable gaze of a cow"). Each page proffers several such stylistic gems, which serve to draw you into the story without putting you off with their brilliance.
Chabon has the ability to hook our heart by ripping the skin off some of the more devastating aspects of contemporary dysfunctional life--divorce, rape, alcoholism, mental illness--while giving us permission, even encouraging us, to laugh at the absurd behavior of these human beings who remind us so much of ourselves. These stories are bitingly funny because we know them, we've been there, or we've imagined them ourselves. They are fresh and original, and yet they resonate with familiarity.
Perhaps you had to have been a boy once to fully appreciate the haunting title story. Poignant and powerful, it prodded many of my own boyhood memories, stirring up emotional coals that still smolder in this 44-year-old body. "Werewolves in Their Youth" captures at once the magical imagination of youth--playing super-hero, android, or werewolf--and the harrowing, confusing reality that insists on breaking in when those childish fantasies go too far. It reads like a mature, modern Ray Bradbury, yet with a more satisfying and non-artificial ending. In fact, the endings of all these tales transmit a note of surprise, but without disingenuousness.
Here are ordinary people in ordinary situations--a graduation party, a bris, a night at a ramshackle island bar--who are revealed as twisted and awry because of their inner fear, violent anger, or confusion. Yet these are stories that repeatedly strike a chord because, after all, there's a little of the werewolf in each of us.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sneaking up on Nabokov 11 Aug 2003
By Mark Silcox - Published on Amazon.com
This is the better of Chabon's two short story collections. There isn't a lot of thematic variation here - all of these stories except for the very last one are about the muddles and unpredictabilities attendant upon married life, and reading them quickly one after the other can be a bit of a downer for this reason. But Chabon has an incredible gift with language, and although a lot of his characters are losers or muddleheaded or the victims of terrible decisions, his prose makes the world around them seem so rich and pregnant with possibilities that it's difficult to find any of the yarns here too depressing. The only time he misfires is in one story that's set entirely in a neighborhood bar - Chabon clearly doesn't frequent such places, and his attempt to catch the atmosphere in one is condescending and a little cliched.
The last story, "In The Black Mill," was a special treat for me. I'm a big fan of gothic horror and this is a wonderful pastiche of M.R. James with maybe a touch of Poe. One hopes that the author never gets so soaked up in Northeastern literary culture that he begins to think that this sort of genre exercise is beneath his dignity.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chabon's stories are great! 26 Oct 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Michael Chabon is mostly known for his novels (Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), but I think his short stories are little gems. The opening sentence of the title story alone is wonderful. His writing sparkles with characters, settings, detail, and vivid turns of phrase. The final story, a Gothic tale written in the style of an author-character in The Wonder Boys, was perfectly done. A perfect book to keep in the car or briefcase for reading while you wait--but you may not be able to stop reading when it's time to go!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, vivid, achingly tender stories 18 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have to admit that the cover of this collection put me off a bit. I'm not usually attracted to Werewolves. But when I realized that the Werewolf in the title story wasn't a supernatural creature, but a child who felt like I did way back when -- isolated,friendless, lonely -- I couldn't help but buy the book. And I was overwhelmed, frankly. Chabon's snapshots of life's moments -- sometimes redemptive, often painful -- touched me in a way most contemporary fiction doesn't. There's a bit of Yates here, some Cheever, Alice Munro, even Lovecraft. And there is something entirely Chabon about it. I couldn't help but laugh at the "reviewers" whose main complaint was that they had to use a dictionary every once in a while. What a great pleasure that was for me -- to discover a word or two that I'd never read before. Isn't that the beauty of the English language? That it contains these mysteries and gifts of little used but fabulous words? How lucky we are to have a writer able to send us tripping through the Oxford English Dictionary while keeping us absolutely grounded in the contemporary American experience.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life among the smugly disappointed 12 Sep 2005
By krebsman - Published on Amazon.com
One way I judge the strength of a story is to ask myself whether it would ever be anthologized and maybe studied in future literature classes. I don't think any of these stories will ever be anthologized in a collection of say, "Best Short Stories of the End of the 20th Century." What's good about these stories is Chabon's gift of observation. It's been a couple of weeks since I read this book, and I still think of some of the images it contains. He's very good at picking out the salient detail and describing it in a way that gives it a resonance beyond mere description. Here's a boy with a box of laboratory supplies belonging to his banished father: "I knelt down and wrapped my arms around the carton and lowered my face into it and inhaled a clean, rubbery smell like that of a new Band Aid." Here's a six-foot-eight athlete- turned- tycoon in a business suit: "He wore silver aviator eyeglasses and a custom-tailored suit, metallic gray, so large and oddly proportioned that it was nearly unrecognizable as an article of human clothing and appeared rather to have been designed to straiten an obstreperous circus elephant or to keep the dust off some big, delicate piece of medical imaging technology." I think that's good stuff. I just wish I had been able to become involved in the stories, or maybe have identified with one of the characters once in a while. Most of the characters are people who are unconnected to their surroundings. Parents have failed their children, children have failed their parents, ex-spouses want they-don't-know-what from each other. The book is populated almost exclusively by people who are resigned to failure. As a result, there's a certain smug undertone to all the stories that I found off-putting. I did not find any of the stories very emotionally involving. My basic reaction to each story was a smirk. Considering Chabon's legions of fans, surely his reputation does not rest on his short stories. One of these days I'll give one of his novels a try.
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