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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Michael Chabon

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1,332665,829 (3.5)94
Title:Telegraph Avenue
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Harper (2012), Kindle Edition, 485 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, literary fiction

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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
All character and not much plot but a lot of fun regardless. It reads like a movie and you can almost see it all as it plays out. If you like Chabon, you should like this. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon follows two couples: Archy Stallings and Gwen Shanks, and Nat Jaffes and Aviva Roth-Jaffe. Archy and Nat run Brokeland Records, a vintage record store, while Gwen and Aviva are the Berkeley Birth Partners, and work together as midwives. Archy and Gwen are black, in the mostly black neighborhood, while Nat and Aviva are white and Jewish. Telegraph Avenue is set in Berkeley, California, and is named after the road that divides Oakland and Berkeley.

While there are several things taking place all at once in the plot of Telegraph Avenue, one event is that former quarterback-turned-entrepreneur Gibson “G Bad” Goode is planning to open a mega-mall called a Dogpile “Thang” emporium in the neighborhood, which would put Brokeland Records out of business. At the same time the existence of Berkeley Birth Partners is being threatened by legal problems as a result of a difficult delivery being moved to the hospital. Additionally, adding to this already stressful mixture is Gwen's impending birth, Luther Stallings (Archie's father, a former blaxploitation movie star) conniving plans, the arrival of Titus (a teenage son Archy didn't know he had), and several other supporting characters in the various plot threads.

Telegraph Avenue is about fathers and sons, families, partners, mentors, race, class, love, friendship, commitment, marriage, medicine. All of this is accompanied by the backbeat of a substantial musical soundtrack and bountiful cultural references, resulting in a vibrant, satisfying and richly layered novel. It is profound and witty, serious and humorous. It is a completely enjoyable novel. The only drawback I found in Telegraph Avenue is the amount of swearing but that is likely because it would not be a normal choice of language for me.

Any review of a novel by Chabon should probably include at least a mention of his love of language and the virtuosity of his writing. Almost every sentence he writes is a labor of love - lyrical, complete, and totally remarkable. Perhaps the best example of this is the one sentence that went on for almost 12 pages. (I will admit that once I realized the sentence was still ongoing, after several pages, then this became distracting until I looked ahead to find the end of the sentence before going back and actually finishing reading it.)

When asked about the construction of his sentences in an NPR interview Chabon said:
NPR Interview: On constructing a sentence
"Sentences are the purest, simplest, most pleasurable part of writing for me. And it's the part that comes the easiest to me. It is frequently the case that I, as I am sitting and writing ... the harbinger of the sentence kind of begins to occur to me in a sort of empty, rhythmic form that has no real meaning yet ... And, you know, instantaneously afterwords, the sense of the sentence fills in that empty vessel and I'm just struggling to kind of keep up with it and get it down. But there are plenty of other times where I am just really working and working and working and working and ... I trample on that initial, beautiful, mystical sentence that emerged ... and I have to try to keep fixing it and tinkering with it. And, you know, I love that aspect of it: the shaping of sentences, the crafting of sentences, that's the fun part of writing for me."

I enjoyed Telegraph Avenue and Very Highly Recommend it.


Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I had high expectations for this book, based on the four other books by Chabon that I've read. Unfortunately, while there are some good things here, I didn't think this was as good as any of the others.

I'll admit that some of my lack of enthusiasm may stem from my lack of appreciation for jazz - and this is a book largely about jazz enthusiasts. However, on second thought, I absolutely loved Esi Edugyan's 'Half-Blood Blues' which is all about jazz and jazz musicians, so maybe I'll take that back.

The main problem is the pacing. The first half of the book is slow, slow, slow, and none of the minor, petty domestic dramas of the characters' lives dragged me in at all.

Archy and Nat are best friends and co-owners of an old-timey jazz record store in Oakland. Unfortunately, their flagging business is threatened by the proposed opening of a hip-hop mega-mall in their neighborhood. They and their friends and neighbors also have a remarkable amount of mostly sad and pathetic personal drama to deal with.

As I said, the first half focuses on showing the reader a very quotidian 'slice-of-life' view of this Oakland neighborhood. The second half picks up a bit, as things get a little more crazy, and we find out more about over-the-hill blaxploitation kung-fu star Luther Stallings' far-fetched plans for a comeback, and a hip-hop mogul's promotional blimp comes into play...

There's a lot here,too... fandom, friendship, what it means to be a father, the nature of loyalty, race relations, the importance of community... but overall, it's still only balancing out at 3 stars, for me. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Wonderful characters, good plotting, extravagant writing (occasionally too much so) are all combined by Michael Chabon is this very twenty first century novel. It has a lot to say about relationships; between men and women, within families and between the races in Oakland, California. I am always a sucker for books s.et around music shops, even if this one specialises in music at the outer ranges of my tastes. It has taken me a long time to get around to reading this, despite enjoying Chabon's other books but I am really glad I finally did. ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
I loved this - the characters, the story, the historical setting, the often quite beautiful prose. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
“Telegraph Avenue,” Michael Chabon’s rich, comic new novel, is a homage to an actual place: the boulevard in Northern California where Oakland — historically an African-American city — aligns with Berkeley, whose bourgeois white inhabitants are, as one character puts it, “liable to invest all their hope of heaven in the taste of an egg laid in the backyard by a heritage-breed chicken.” The novel is equally a tribute to the cinematic style of Quentin Tarantino, whose films its characters study and discuss, and whose preoccupations pepper its pages: kung fu, cinematic allusions and the blaxploitation films of the 1970s; and an interest in African-American characters and experience. Chabon and Tarantino make an unlikely duo; while the latter’s films tend toward gaudy eruptions of violence, Chabon bends Tarantino’s sensibility to a warmhearted novel about fatherhood in which the onstage violence consists of two graphic childbirth scenes and a 15-year-old boy whacking a chubby thug with a wooden sword. A self-help book in the style of Andrei Tarkovsky would be hardly more oxymoronic.
Mr. Chabon has constructed an amazingly rich, emotionally detailed story that addresses his perennial themes — about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the consolations of art — while reaching outward to explore the relationship between time past and time present, the weight (or lightness, as the case may be) of history, and the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.
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Call me Ishmael.

--Ishmael Reed, probably.
To Ayelet, from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove
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A white boy rode flatfoot on a skateboard, towed along, hand to shoulder, by a black boy pedaling a brakeless fixed-gear bike.
Like a dog in a cartoon, forepaws a turbine blur as he hunted up a buried bone in a churn of dirt, Nat excavated the cabinets and ransacked the drawers looking for usable serving containers and suitable platters.
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Book description
One street in Oakland, California. As the summer draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are hanging in there, co-regents of Brokeland Records. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, a pair of legendary midwives.

When former star quarterback Gibson Goode announces plans to dump his latest Dogpile megastore on Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear the worst for their vulnerable little enterprise, as behind Goode’s proposal lurks a nefarious scheme.

While their husbands struggle to mount a defence, Aviva and Gwen find themselves caught up in a professional battle that tests their friendship. And into their already tangled lives comes Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged.
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In this novel the author takes us to Telegraph Avenue. It is a story that explores the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland, California families, one black and one white. Here he creates a world grounded in pop culture: Kung Fu, 1970s Blaxploitation films, vinyl LPs, jazz and soul music, and an epic of friendship, race, and secret histories. Longtime band mates Archy and Nat preside over Brokeland Records, a used-record emporium. All is well until a former NFL quarterback, one of the country's richest African Americans, decides to build his latest Dogpile megastore on nearby Telegraph Avenue. Not only could this spell doom for the little shop and its cross-race, cross-class dream, but it opens up past history regarding Archy's untethered dad and a Black Panther-era crime.… (more)

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