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Washington, D.C., almost ruined Michael Chabon. While finishing his acclaimed The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, the author came upon a watercolor rendering of D.C. as it would look if restored to L’Enfant’s original design. Chabon saw in this the makings of a second novel, Fountain City, but five years and four drafts later, he decided to write Wonder Boys instead. This strategy seems to have worked. By abandoning Mysteries‘ follow-up and proceeding directly to his third full-length fiction—which in fact contemplates the pressures of a writing lifestyle—perhaps Chabon escaped the dread second-novel syndrome that afflicted the likes of Amy Tan. He reads at 7 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (Nathalie op de Beeck)