Telegraph Avenue Hardcover – 11 Sep 2012
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‘Deeply wise and soulful … What you get is a big, serious, probing American novel, a page-turner that, like Chabon himself, seems to walk the line between high and low culture’ Attica Locke, Guardian
‘TELEGRAPH AVENUE achieves the blissed-out honey-coloured atmosphere of Cameron Crowe’s film ALMOST FAMOUS or Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, but is deeper and more intelligent than either of those … It feels entirely relevant to the uncertainty of the present moment’ Sunday Times
‘TELEGRAPH AVENUE is a wonderful novel … Wonderfully engaging, exuberantly written … the world constructed here is one to lose yourself in … This is a novel that I found myself slowing down while reading, out of sheer pleasure. I put it off, and rationed it out, and just didn’t want it to end.’ Philip Hensher, Spectator
‘Chabon’s metaphors and similes can be wonderfully surreal… Telegraph Avenue is about many things: music, race relations, nostalgia, childbearing, husbands and wives, fathers and sons. Ultimately, however, it is a realist novel about the power of imaginary worlds to liberate or constrain’ Times Literary Supplement
‘A multi-generational, anatomy-of-a-community doorstopper with a plot like clockwork and sentences like toffee’ Sunday Telegraph
From the Back Cover
As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there--longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, a pair of semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart--half tavern, half temple--stands Brokeland.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complications to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
horrible copy, which I couldn't possibly read. ??? As far as I could tell there was no mention of the type face or that it would be an
international version. I am now loath to order any other books in case I get the same thing again.
No, there’s no real action-packed or cliff-hanging plot line, but it’s not particularly that kind of book. However, all the threads of the story kept me absorbed with great characters and their various predicaments.
Some of the other reviewers complain about being confused by the many characters in the book but I didn’t find this to be the case at all. They each appeared to be relevant to their stage of the story, albeit some were only minor players.
Not the pinnacle of his writing, but nevertheless an excellent book which I’d recommend for all Michael Chabon fans
Unfortunately, I found it very hard to engage with this book. It's difficult to put my finger on any one thing, and I think it was a combination of factors.
* Too many characters that played too small a part - The book is a confusion of characters, many of which are introduced simply to give colour to a single scene. Of course when that happens it's not clear at first and you have to wait a while to realise they're not making a reappearance. The CHOCHISE meeting about 3/4 of the way through the book is a prime example of this.
* Unclear characterisation forced me to re-evaluate the characters too often - As a reader I draw certain conclusions from the actions of characters. When these conclusions are contradicted later on it becomes confusing. Why did they act the way they did if that's the sort of person they are?
* Unclear character descriptions - This was a minor one, but it happened a couple of times, and it pulled me right out of the story. I'd built a picture of a character in my head, then some new piece of information (eg. hair colour, in the case of Cochise) is introduced relatively late in the book, forcing me to revise my mental image, and throwing the whole plot into confusion as I now have 2 character images for the same character - one of which has performed the actions in the first half of the book, and one which will hold from now on.
* Not enough story - At some point beautiful prose just isn't enough, and at the end of the day I didn't feel there was enough actual story to warrant a book of this length.
* Too many references - To everything! From Star Trek to Jazz. I doubt anybody got all the references in the book. It's OK that a book assumes specific knowledge on the part of the reader (eg. Hornby's High Fidelity), but when you spread the subjects about which specialist knowledge is required this thin, you're left with a very small percentage of the population that will "get" everything. It just left me feeling like an outsider, rather than feeling involved in the story and the characters (and I got a reasonably high proportion of the references, I think. I wonder how folks that understood fewer felt?)
To sum up: not a bad book, just not his best work, and - for me - too much like hard work to read. I will put the time and effort in to read difficult books (eg. Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is well worth the effort - one of my favourite books!) but for this one it was too much work for too little reward. Sorry Mr. Chabon. I hope to see a return to form next time!
It's not just business that's causing trouble for Archy and Nat either. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, run a midwifery business together and inadvertently become embroiled in a racially charged professional dispute when a home birth goes dangerously wrong. The chances of domestic peace are further shattered by the arrival of Archy's estranged father Luther Stallings, a former Blaxploitation star and martial arts champion, the revelation that Archy has a previously unacknowledged teenage son named Titus Joyner, and the relationship between Titus and Nat's son Julius. The impending arrival of Gibson Goode's Thang quickly becomes the least of Archy and Nat's worries.
Telegraph Avenue is an excellent, epic novel of real life and relationships. Michael Chabon often explores interpersonal relationships (particularly notions of fatherhood) and how they affect individuals as well as the wider world and he does so again in a variety of ways with Telegraph Avenue. There's a massive cast of characters and so a whole host of different relationships - spouses, parents and children, neighbours, business partners etc - are explored and evaluated. In addition of all of these interpersonal relationships, Chabon also considers intercommunity relationships, most obviously in relation to racial divides but also class and socioeconomic differences. As such, Telegraph Avenue is a thought provoking novel that casts light on the many tensions that are simmering under the surface of modern American life.
With Telegraph Avenue Chabon investigates the kind of forgotten crimes, both real and imagined, that exist in all communities. There are secrets about secrets about secrets in Archy and Nat's lives and the past is never far away for any of the characters. There are lots of plot strands running concurrent to the central fate of Brokeland Records with Chabon capturing a host of different cultures, styles and attitudes expertly. Even the arthritic parrot's ten page monologue seems convincing. Saying that, it's probably unsurprising that there's plenty of humour mixed in with the domestic drama. There's also a plethora of pop culture references that seem to extend from the 70s to the present day.
Like the music that Archy and Nat love to sell at Brokeland Records, Telegraph Avenue is full of soul. It's a powerful story of love, injustice and the dangers of consumerism but Chabon still manages to work in plenty of laughs along the way. Telegraph Avenue is a fascinating character study peopled by delightful eccentrics. Here's to hoping that Mr. Nostalgia gets a spin-off novel.
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