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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Michael Chabon

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Title:Telegraph Avenue
Authors:Michael Chabon
Info:HarperCollins (2013), Paperback
Collections:2013, Fiction, 2012

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Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Author) (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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. ( )
  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 |
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... ] ( )
1 vote 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. ( )
1 vote figre | Apr 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (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
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.
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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