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Telegraph Avenue: A Novel by Michael Chabon
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Telegraph Avenue: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Michael Chabon

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1,167626,945 (3.5)78
Member:sushidog
Title:Telegraph Avenue: A Novel
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:Harper (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:America, jazz, race

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Telegraph Avenue: A Novel by Michael Chabon (Author) (2012)

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English (60)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Michael Chabon writes like an angel – one of Kerouac’s stoned desolation angels maybe, or better still, like Nicola Barker – writers with the same unerring ear for the vernacular, the same sheer obsession with language which leads to mad riffs, exhilarating, exuberant verbal flights, Flaubertian-triple-adjectives. And Telegraph Avenue reads like music, with which it is obsessed – Chabon can describe a record and make you swear you hear every sound - oh and it’s pretty focused on race relations too. Telegraph Avenue, never much of a contender, is going down – or possibly up, if the black and Jewish owners of Brokeland secondhand vinyl store can be persuaded to abandon the fight and accept the imminent arrival of a Dogpile store, owned by an All-pro quarterback made very good (Gibson Goode, in fact - lot of Dickensian apt names here!). So battle commences, with subplots deeply concerned with fatherhood – a favourite Chabon subject – midwifery (and a pregnancy approaching the shelling-out point so vividly and accurately described I think Chabon has had female help here!), the San Francisco wild parrot colony, blaxploitation, the meaning and possibilities of friendship. And the prose flies. It soars like Cochise Jones’s parrot, like the zeppelin that menaces the Californian skies. Section 3 is a bravura one sentence eleven page resume of where everyone’s at courtesy of the trajectory of a bird’s flight. Chabon deploys similes and metaphors better than any poet – ‘Along the food table ran a sawtooth of fried-chicken mountains. Wreathed in clouds. Air tanks and Sherpas were required to reach its peaks’ – ‘the elusive Titus, a cat burglar rappelling down the sheer wall of Julie’s life’ – I could go on and on with phrases and sentences that made me stop and reread with sheer pleasure. But the key to the whole book, I think, lies in Archy’s funeral oration for his lost father-figure, a wonderful speech which could be summed up, I think, by the song ‘the world is just a great big melting pot’ – but Chabon/Archy puts it so much more lyrically. On the way Bruce Lee, Tarentino, Terry Pratchett, Charlie Brown, some unexpected minor cultural figures and an enormous number of musical giants all get referenced. A great book. ( )
  Roseredlee | Jun 24, 2015 |
It was dense and impenetrable but I loved pretty much every minute of it. What should have been Chabon's easiest book for me to get through, given the subject matter, somehow became the hardest for me, given the subject matter. I loved most of it, some of the characters and scenes drove me crazy -- the set up with 58, only to leave us with that highly unsatisfying resolution didn't make sense to me, I didn't like the blimp and felt like another device would have been just as significant - but I still relished every word I read and was sorry when it was over. ( )
  Caryn.Rose | Mar 18, 2015 |
I've read many of Michael Chabon's books and I enjoy the way he thinks and writes. This book, however, was so full of digressionary material that the fairly simple story was almost lost in the interstices of descriptive verbiage. I persevered and enjoyed the book and would recommend it. ( )
1 vote CynthiaBelgum | Oct 3, 2014 |
A book with story potential, I chose it because it was about a local city i love, Oakland, about jazz musicians, and about a strong women midwife, but the delivery came across flat (pun intended?) and I really didn't feel that emotionally connected to the characters. It didn't have that sparkle i wanted.

The best parts were in the sub-plot of Archy's wife Gwen, a practicing mid-wife, she herself currently pregnant, struggling with the infidelity her carousing husband's present and past keep blindsiding her with. This story seemed more tangible and interesting than Archy's haze of a failing store and friendship, a birth and death, and a teenage son surfacing from Archy's not-long-ago past.

There are gems throughout the text though, and not an un-enjoyed read. I would like to read more of Chabon's oeuvre. ( )
1 vote kbullfrog | Jun 30, 2014 |
Archy and Nat own a music store in Oakland, specializing in old and rare vinyl recordings of jazz, funk, and soul. It's difficult to keep such an enterprise afloat, though, especially when a big, flashy multi-media megastore competitor is about to move into the neighborhood. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, midwives who attend to home births, also face some of the same small-and-traditional vs. big-and-wealthy conflict themselves after Gwen loses her cool at a disapproving doctor. Meanwhile, some people and events from the past raise their heads unexpectedly, and, well, a bunch of other stuff happens.

Honestly, though, plot isn't the attraction here. Which is just as well, as it meanders around a lot and then just sort of peters out, possibly because it's reached the point where Chabon felt like he had enough pages and might as well wrap it up. But that is absolutely fine and does not make the book one whit less enjoyable. Because, holy crap, when he puts his mind to it, Chabon can write. Sentence after sentence proves to be an utter joy to read: smart and fresh and insightful, sometimes moving and sometimes fun. Also, packed with references to everything from science to comic books to 80s kitsch to kung fu movies to the entire complex history of African-American music. In fact, I'd say that at heart this novel is very much a celebration of culture. All kinds of culture: black and white, high and low, serious and silly and everything in-between, all stirred together into one great big glorious stew. The allusions to things I'm familiar with were all aptly and delightfully used, and the ones to things I wasn't familiar with, mostly musical things, made me feel as if I somehow were familiar with them. I'm not quite sure how Chabon manages that, but my hat is off to him for it. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jun 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (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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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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