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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
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Telegraph Avenue (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Michael Chabon

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964None8,940 (3.48)70
Member:nbmars
Title:Telegraph Avenue
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:HarperCollins (2013), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, California

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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Author) (2012)

2012 (15) 2013 (12) 21st century (8) American (11) American literature (13) Berkeley (14) California (29) contemporary fiction (8) ebook (15) family (11) fiction (159) first edition (10) goodreads (5) jazz (10) Kindle (7) literary fiction (6) literature (21) midwife (11) midwifery (8) music (36) novel (27) Oakland (19) race (6) read (9) read in 2012 (6) read in 2013 (7) signed (11) to-read (69) unread (7) USA (11)
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Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
One thing I like about Michael Chabon is that he is always willing to try things, even if they don't always work out. With so much happening in the plot, it is easy to see why this is a compelling read. What is hard to see (or explain) is why it is sometimes a pretty slow one. It doesn't seem to be tied to a character or section or plot point, but sometimes I just lost my momentum on this thing. Other times, though, I was really into it. I'm glad I read this one -- the good parts made up for the sloggy bits, and the parts that didn't work made the parts that do work even more interesting.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2014/04/telegraph-avenue-by-michael-chabon-2012.ht... ] ( )
  kristykay22 | Apr 11, 2014 |
Michael Chabon is a writer who deals in the details of life. His writing is full of characters with character – detailed individuals who he successfully brings to life for the reader. This book continues to showcase his ability. Further, it shows how well he handles characters who might fall too easily into cliché. In this story we have hippies and musicians and the African-American culture and Northern California culture and big businessmen and small businessmen and many others who - again, handled skillessly – might quickly descend into caricatures with whom the reader would have no investment.

Michael Chabon is also a writer who can take small themes and make them big. And he can take big themes and make them apply to the individual in a private manner. What could be bigger than the intimate story of a big box entertainment store intruding into a tightly knit small community, threatening the existence of some of the local, home-grown establishments? What could be more private than learning the truth about one's father? What could be more intimate than the introspection to determine if one wants to continue one's life in the trajectory it has taken? What could be more fundamental than trying to define the soul of a community?

And Michael Chabon is a writer who takes all these ingredients and makes entertaining stories. All of the above is evident in Telegraph Avenue. It is the story of Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, owners of Brokeland Records – a vinyl record store. It is also the story of their wives – Gwen and Aviva – who are midwives. The midwifery business faces unique challenges – in this instance primarily focused on maintaining their status in the medical community. Brokeland Records has an even bigger problem - a Dogpile entertainment store is coming and it will effectively destroy Brokeland Records. This is the framework upon which the lives of these and many other characters move forward. We've got a blimp, we've got a Blaxploitation Kung Fu star, we've got a master of the Hammond B3 organ, we've got a lot of fun, strange stuff. And the story of Dogpile coming in is simply the inflection point that makes these characters begin to learn (or not learn) more about themselves.

All well and good. All the best we have come to expect of Chabon. All engrossing and entertaining and encapturing. But there was one stumbling block; there are some characters (important characters) with character flaws that just can't be forgiven. One or two of the important characters – the pivotal characters – are just not likable.

Now I'm not the kind that has to have perfect people. I can really like the type that are despicable. I can truly enjoy the flawed. But sometimes there are character traits/flaws I cannot get past – I cannot accept as "Well, they are just a lovable person and I will forgive them." (Not related to this book, but it is why I disliked Zorba the Greek.)

And that happens here – character flaw I could not get past. And those flaws kept me from cozening up to the characters as much as I needed to. (What do I mean? One example – cheating on your pregnant wife.)

This does not destroy the book, but it does knock it down a peg or two. I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed a number or the characters, and I was glad to be along for the ride. But I took the ride with one eye out wondering if I would need an escape. ( )
  figre | Apr 9, 2014 |
How could I not love this book? For the past twenty years I have lived a half block off Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. With this book Michael Chabon makes my world a colorful and vital place to live (which it truly is). It is a perceptive portrayal of life in a 21st-century urban American neighborhood full of cultural misunderstandings and larger than life personalities. It is a moving story about class and race, parenting, marriage, and friendship written with warmth and humor and enthusiasm. Telegraph Avenue is a mesmerizing read and I highly recommend it. (Oh, by the way, there is one twelve page sentence!)
( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, takes place on and around the titular street, on the border between Oakland and Berkeley, where Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe run a small, struggling used record (as in vinyl) store. Their two wives, Gwen and Aviva respectively, are both midwives working in conjunction with a local hospital but generally providing home births for their clients, who are mostly middle and upper class white women; Gwen, who is pregnant herself, is particularly bothered by this because she went into the field to help other Black women give birth in more natural surroundings than a hospital offers. When Nat and Aviva's teenage son Julius, known affectionately as Julie, hooks up with a newcomer to Oakland, Titus, who turns out to be Archy's son by another woman, the relationship between the two couples becomes strained; when a large, Black-owned business plots to move into their turf, the men's record store is threatened; and when Archy's ne'er-do-well father, an ex-junkie and ex-martial-arts movie star, turns up with a comeback scheme, the lives of all the intertwined families are up-ended.... I have to say from the get-go that I reacted very subjectively to this book, because I grew up in part exactly in the area in which this novel takes place, albeit some 25 or 30 years earlier than the events in the book: when, in the very short Part 3 section of the book, a woman deciding what to do with the furniture of a deceased relative and realizing that the pieces are "fit only for the Ashby BART flea market," I think "hey, that's where I bought my very first couch, a monstrous yellow thing that cost me $15!" and when, later in the same section, a bird ends up near "Juan's Mexican," I think "hey, that's where we had dinner with my mother and a friend the last time we were in California!" So one cannot say that I am unbiased with respect to this story. Leaving that aside as much as possible, I really like this book a lot. Chabon has a trick of getting into the heads of very disparate characters, and the stories from the past and the present flow into one another in almost a stream-of-consciousness way without being either pretentious or annoying in the process. The story is sometimes very very funny, and at other times heart-breakingly sad, and at all times it feels entirely real and human. I've only read a couple of Chabon's other novels, but I enjoyed those two very much as well; I will definitely seek out more in the future. Recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Feb 5, 2014 |
I can’t go without mentioning the eleven-page-long third section of the novel--a single sentence, mostly written from the viewpoint of a parrot. Yes, it’s undeniably virtuosic writerly trickery, but I was seven pages into it before I even realized that it was all one sentence, and to me, that means it worked. When I finished the section, I commented to my husband:
Me: "This guy just wrote a sentence that was eleven pages long."
Tall Paul: "Is that even legal?"
Me: "It is if you do have a license to do literary tricks like that, and this guy most definitely does."
Aside from the parrot’s-eye-view piece, I appreciated the way that Chabon's explorations into genre during the last decade or so colored this return to more literary fiction. I loved the smart pop-culture references, which cover such a wide range--assorted musical genres, comics, classic science fiction, film theory, television--that even if you don't get them all, your own particular form of nerdery will probably be represented. Granted, I have an abiding weakness for smart pop-cultural references in most of my entertainment anyway, but I particularly like sensing that they're not just tossed in; for the most part, I found them to be well-chosen, functional details that help flesh out scenes and characters.

I’m not sure that Telegraph Avenue is as ambitious a novel as Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winner The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I don’t think it fully achieves the ambitions it does have. That said, I generally applaud that kind of ambition, and feel a little let down when it doesn't quite stick the landing. But when someone writes the way Chabon does, the letdown isn't quite as rough.

READ MORE: http://www.3rsblog.com/2013/05/book-talk-telegraph-avenue-michael-chabon.html ( )
  Florinda | Jan 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (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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Epigraph
Call me Ishmael.

--Ishmael Reed, probably.
Dedication
To Ayelet, from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove
First words
A white boy rode flatfoot on a skateboard, towed along, hand to shoulder, by a black boy pedaling a brakeless fixed-gear bike.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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