Read Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon Online


Telegraph Avenue explores the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland, California families, one black and one white. It's about a world grounded in pop culture—Kung Fu, ’70s Blaxploitation films, vinyl LPs, jazz and soul music—a bravura epic of friendship, race, and secret histories....

Title : Telegraph Avenue
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007288762
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 625 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Telegraph Avenue Reviews

  • John Luiz
    2019-01-28 07:37

    Count me among those that found reading this book a chore. Chabon is obviously brilliant and talented but reading his work is a bit like being trapped in the corner at a party by a manic genius, who feeds you dozens of brilliant different ideas at once, but at such a speed and with so many different tangents along the way that's it difficult to take it all in. Here, to slow things down, you often have to read sentences a couple of times just to keep track of what the noun and verb were in between all the independent clauses and tangential metaphors. Thank God for e-books with their at your fingertips dictionaries, because you also have to look up at least a word or two per page.Clearly plenty of readers enjoy having their minds expanded by such a prodigious talent, but I found much of the information show-offy. It's amazing how many varied metaphors Chabon can spin, but occasionally it would be great to have a few sentences you don't need a road map to get through. A character can't simply reach for a tube of superglue, instead he has to get "a tube of superglue, the crusted tip of its nozzle, forever pierced like some allegorical wound in a story of King Arthur, by its tiny red-capped pin."If that talent were used more judiciously, the reading might not be such a heavy slog.In the previews, I saw a lot of praise for Chabon capturing the current cultural zeitgeist but I guess I didn't get that. He has four main story lines - an African American, Archy, and his Jewish partner, Nat. have a record store in Oakland that's under threat when a former NFL star turned businessmen is thinking about opening a megastore in their neighborhood; their wives are also getting into similar trouble as midwives when they have to rush a mother to a hospital during a difficult delivery and an obstetrician accuses them of negligence; a son Archy didn't know he had shows up in Oakland trying to connect with his father, and Nat's son, who's the same age, has developed a crush on him; and finally, Archy's father, Luther a martial arts expert turned crack addict is trying to rekindle his earlier days as a star in blaxploitation films while also blackmailing an old friend who is now a powerful businessman and city councilman, but who in his younger days killed a local troublemaker as a favor to Huey Newton of the Black Panthers.It sounds like a lot, but the storylines themselves didn't feel like enough to fill up 465 pages. If you took out all the authors' efforts to prove his encyclopedic knowledge of every subject from the history of jazz to superhero comic books, it felt like each story could have been told neater and faster.There are some interesting historical details about the loss of mom & pop-type stores with the invasion of corporate chains. Mixed in with that is an examination of the promise of urban renewal that a Magic Johnson-like figure offers by investing in the inner city. There are also interesting details about the history of midwifery and the conflict that Archy’s wife, Gwen, feels between the historical importance that midwives had in the black culture vs. what it is today – primarily an option of privileged white women. In one of my favorite passages, a night school instructor gives the 14-year-old boys and the other class participants a hysterically funny lecture on how Vincent Minelli’s The Bandwagon influenced Quentin Tarantino. But this novel, for me, doesn’t capture an era the way that Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities did (although admittedly Wolfe doesn’t have anywhere near the writing chops Chabon does.)Too often, though, the novel gets bogged down with evidence of how smart Chabon is thrown up on every page. There are other novelists I love, like Robert Cohen, whose genius and prolific imagination are evident in every sentence. But Cohen fills his novels with great insights into what it means to be human. I don't need to read several pages about how to reassemble an organ speaker, as Chabon does, with the writer proving he knows the exact name for every part.With Chabon, he also often makes you feel stupid for not having a Ph.D in pop culture. Not of all his references are self-contained. Near the end of the novel when Archy's wife Gwen is giving birth, Nat's son, Julius, is helping her deal with the pain by recounting scenes from Star Trek. He writes about an episode in which the female companion to the evil Kirk uses a "Tantalus Field" to overcome her adversaries. When Gwen faces the prospect of having the doctor who charged her with negligence deliver her baby, she asks Julius to cast a Tantalus Field on the doctor. Now I vaguely remember seeing that episode, but I don't remember what the Tantalus Field was, and I'm not reeducated on exactly what it was by Chabon's description.My final complaint is one I've had with previous Chabon novels. He often writes gay lovemaking scenes in very specific detail, and while I don't have any problem with that, I wish he would give hetero lovemaking equal time. The two sex scenes in this novel are not for the squeamish because they involve sexual experimentation between the two 14-year-old boys and an episode when the philandering Archy sodomizes, consensually, his wife's transgendered assistant.I don't regret finishing this one, although it took me a long while to get through it because I wasn't always motivated to pick it up. His writing reminds me of Zadie Smith. It may sound oxymoronic but there's just too much sheer brilliance on every page and in every sentence. Call me insecure, and maybe even a philistine, but I prefer to read novelists whose own writing style is less obvious so that I can get into the characters and be moved by the circumstances they find themselves in. I find Chabon's style, which constantly reminds me there's a much more brilliant mind than mine stringing these sentences together, keeps me too disconnected from the characters. And what is the infamous 11-page sentence, other than a break in the characters' story to show another explicit example of what a virtuoso Chabon is?I didn't always feel this way about Chabon. I haven't read all of his books, but I did like Mysteries of Pittsburgh and the marvelous The Wonder Boys. But the Pulitzer-prize winning Kavalier and Clay left me feeling the same way this one did. After this experience, he may be off my must-read author list.I'm sure this book will be on many "Best of the Year" lists, but it seems to me book critics and judges are mesmerized by the kind of writing that often turns me off.

  • Nathan
    2019-02-06 12:49

    This book drove me a little nuts. It's plot is overstuffed making the whole thing much too long. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if the language didn't irritate me so much. Chabon tries to be both hip and smart, while dealing with characters who seem to be lacking in both. I felt too often that I was reading an Elmore Leonard book written towards the Ivy League set. Elmore Leonard at least knows how to plot. The plot lacks punch and swiftness and I felt myself caring less and less as the book went along. It just ended up not being my bag.

  • Chuck
    2019-02-17 14:22

    Hey, check out my razzle-dazzle, dictionary-demanding, neverending prose that rolls off the page like marbles falling from a flatbed truck, grabbing you like a gardener's glove in a Venus flytrap, moaning like Robert Johnson on a late-night radio blues show, carousing like a Common Ornery Cokeheaded Ho Intransigently Seeking Excitement (that's C.O.C.H.I.S.E. -- get it?), continuing on and on and on and on like my man Joyce's Molly Bloom without ever switching sentences 'cause I'm producing a Ulysses for the twenty-first century, so please don't stop me now when I haven't even made it to Page Two and I've still got more than 450 pages to go . . . .Sorry about that. Well, not really. But let's face it; there are guys who seem to be in love with the sounds of their own voices. There's the pompous one holding forth at the restaurant table right next to you. Or the oblivious jerk shouting into his cell phone on an adjacent treadmill. And then, ladies and gentlemen, there's the celebrated Michael Chabon, who tosses sentences at you like firecrackers; they dazzle, sparkle, pop, crackle, and snap, but ultimately they just annoy and fizzle out.It's obvious that Chabon possesses a substantial and energetic writerly talent, but just what is he attempting to accomplish here? Is he hoping to establish his street cred? Is he trying to tell a significant and memorable story? Is he looking to create the verbal equivalent of jazz riffs? Most likely it's all three, but in Telegraph Avenue this tripartite mix creates a cacophony that gradually becomes unbearable. Consequently, what might have been an exceptional book becomes a complete turn-off. I don't give up on many novels, but after some 250 pages of this one I had had more than enough.

  • Kemper
    2019-02-15 07:42

    A bunch of quirky characters wear clothes from the ‘70s and use old technology like a portable 8-track player while dealing with each other’s personal tics? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was reading a Michael Chabon novel or a Wes Anderson screenplay for a while.Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are co-owners of a vintage record store in Oakland, but the business is circling the drain. A former pro football player is about to finish them off by opening up a huge retail store featuring an extensive used vinyl section just down the street. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, are also partners in a midwife practice, but when a home delivery goes sour, they also find their business at risk. Archy and Gwen are about to have a baby, but he can’t stop cheating on her. The sudden appearance of a 14 year old son named Titus he has never acknowledged doesn’t do a lot for the marital harmony. Nat’s son Julius is geeky kid with a love of comic books and Tarantino movies who is just realizing that he’s gay and falls for Titus. If that wasn’t enough general confusion, Archy’s estranged father, a former star of black exploitation movies, shows up again with a blackmail scheme in which he tries to shake down the ex-athlete that is about to put Archy out of business.As you can tell from the summary, there’s a lot going on in this book. Archy is at the heart of it, and he’s an interesting character. An oversized vinyl buff who wears vintage leisure suits, Archy seems like a calm and mellow guy who rolls with the punches, but over the course of the book Chabon shows how he’s a man terrified of choice and consequences so he floats along trying to keep everything the same even as he knows big changes are inevitable with a baby on the way and his business going under. He reminded me a lot of another Chabon character, Grady Tripp from Wonder Boys.The other characters are well thought out and the whole story has a funny bittersweet feel to it. There’s a couple of times where I felt like a character deserved a brisk slap for being too self-indulgent, but Chabon does a good job of sensing those moments and having another character call them on it.I particularly liked that even though this involved a collectible industry and has a lot of geek shout-outs to comic books and other nerd touchstones, that Chabon never lets it devolve into nostalgia porn. There’s an interesting undercurrent of the old school small community based business versus the modern corporate world, but Chabon doesn’t supply easy answers. It’s pointed out that the big store would create hundreds of jobs and revitalize a dying neighborhood while the used record store is more of a hobby than a business for Archy and Nat. Gwen and Aviva have to deal with hospital politics to keep their privileges for their home birth practice while the doctors treat them like crap. The biggest struggles the characters have with each other and themselves is trying to strike the balance of trying to work on their own terms while being responsible and providing for their families.While it’s an entertaining read filled with off-beat characters, it never really sucked me in the same way that The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay did, and I’d rank Wonder Boys and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union ahead of it. It’s certainly not a bad book, it just doesn't seem to have the depth that Chabon’s other work I’ve read had.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-01-29 07:30

    Onvan : Telegraph Avenue - Nevisande : Michael Chabon - ISBN : 61493341 - ISBN13 : 9780061493348 - Dar 465 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2012

  • Lizzy Boden
    2019-01-30 09:48

    I wanted to like it. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my favorite books of all time, and I went into this one with excitement and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that only lasted about fifty pages. I shouldered through because I wanted to give Chabon the benefit of the doubt. In the end, I think the novel could have been saved with some judicious editing. It should have been about a third shorter. Chabon lets his thoughts run away from him and while his many asides are beautifully written, they distract from the story in a way that is not pleasant. By the end of the book, they began to seem pretentious to me, like Chabon was so proud of his prose that he couldn't care less if it fit so long as you read how talented he is. The 12 page/one sentence chapter in the middle, which is written from the point of view of a parrot flying over Oakland, just about killed me. I was ready to throw the book across the train. Looking back, I'm not sure why I bothered to finish the book.The characters should be better than they are-- all of Chabon's asides get in the way of their development as people, and I think Chabon was hoping that readers would see more motivation in them than he actually ever earned. Do yourself a favor and read Kavalier and Clay again instead. Chabon might be great again one day, but he has to listen to a really good editor first.

  • Jan Rice
    2019-02-12 09:50

    I was afraid I wouldn't like this book. My daughter gave it to me last year, I'd already been unable to finish one of the three books she gave me, and when I looked at some of the professional reviews, I interpreted them as ambiguous. So, the book sat and waited....I've read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I liked it but it was a long time ago; at the time, I didn't have the hooks in my head to hang a lot of it on, so little memory of it lingers. I read The Yiddish Policemen's Union; a friend told me he couldn't read it, but I had it on audio; same with Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure. Listening makes it a different experience. When the narrator is good, you can listen to a book you couldn't read, and I wasn't sure about those two. And I read The Final Solution because I like Sherlock Holmes. It was a novella, a slight thing, I thought then. That's funny; I've read so many of his books, yet I'm not sure? Hmm...Anyway, a Goodreads friend had just read and disliked it, which had a paradoxical impact. Why not take the plunge, I thought, just for the halibut?And I liked it! Right from the first it sparkled and danced. For a decade and more, up until this year, I've been listening to most of my fiction on audio. There's been a niggling doubt that that had somehow messed up my ability to enjoy fiction. I mean, I thought I was enjoying the books I've been reading this year, but I had to try. This book just tickled me. Not that it was all funny. Sometimes it brought tears to my eyes. But it pleased me. It has reset my rating scale. From now on those novels I thought were fours and fives are going to have to be threes and fours.The book is the story of two couples. The two guys are in business together, the vintage record business, and the two wives are midwife partners. One of the guys has a failed-celebrity father who, along with society, has instilled in him some unhelpful tendencies. In a way, he's the protagonist, except that so is his wife, and maybe the other couple, too. Their children, two fourteen year old boys, become friends and get into the action. They all care about, even love, each other, and the author loves them, too. None of them are generic characters, unlike the characters of, say, Gone Girl or Freedom. That's one thing that was so refreshing--real people. The book is set in the almost-now. Change is coming. Tensions are created. Demands are placed. What will happen to the people and what will they do? The publisher's blurb gives a little more detail but not necessarily more clarity.The publisher's blurb also calls it "the great American novel we've been waiting for." I don't know about that. Chabon is a virtuoso with words. What he does is sketch in character with deft, sure strokes.Some people thought he was pretentious with his vocabulary. I don't get that. If I don't know what a word means I don't always stop and look it up (shame!), but there weren't that many. Wait. I didn't get every one of the cultural references. There are a lot of musical references. But I got enough. The references, after all, were from--the '70s.When I went back and looked at the professional reviews after I'd read it, they didn't look the same to me as before. They were positive. Goodreads reviews are a different kettle of fish, ranging from one to five stars. There's no accounting for taste. Thank goodness people have different tastes and that there are so many books! But for this book, some people reacted just about as though it were criticizing their religion. I can see how some people wouldn't like this book on ideological grounds. It's America I'm thinking of, having less of a feel for the other parts of the world.Here's what I think this book is about, in one of the fourteen year old's science fiction terms:When you changed a planet's atmosphere and environment to suit the needs of human physiology, that was terraforming; pantropy meant the alteration of the human form and mind to allow survival, even prosperity, on a harsh, unforgiving world. In the struggle to survive and flourish on the planet of America, some black people had opted for the epic tragedy, grand and bitter, of terraforming; others, like Gwen's parents and their parents and grandparents before them, had engaged in a long and selective program of pantropy. Black pantropy had produced, in Gwen and her brothers, a clutch of viable and effortless success-breathers, able to soar and bank on the thermals of opportunity and defy the killing gravity of the colony world.Yes, I have thought about the "Booker T. Washington modality" contrasted with the "MLK modality," a la Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Sometimes we need a revolution. But watch out about insisting on what other people's roles should be; who's the real beneficiary?This book is about black people and about people who are in, but not of, whiteness; who, if that other book I reviewed, Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race & American Identity is right, have been white for about 70 years now.I also read up a little on Quentin Tarantino before writing this review since I understood two Goodreads reviewers to be comparing Chabon's book unfavorably to Tarantino's cultural grasp and black movie characters. If you are looking for Quentin Tarantino, this book is not for you. Otherwise you might just love it as I did. I hope I haven't gone down a negative path or analyzed it to death!There were a couple characters I had difficulty pinning down, but after the first few pages I had the main characters down. This is not one of those books that requires a diagram of characters. I thought two of the characters got off too easy for what they had done and that probably wouldn't have happened in real life, but it didn't bother me much. And we know some of the characters will soon have some additional shocks coming, knowing as we do what happened to the economy a few years later.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-02-12 13:33

    “They were little more than boys, and yet while they differed in race, in temperament, and in their understanding of love, they were united in this: The remnant of their boyhood was a ballast they wished to cut away.” ― Michael Chabon, Telegraph AvenueI lived for several idyllic months during my virgin adulthood in Boulder, Colorado. There was a term often tossed around, at least then, that Boulder was 20 square miles surrounded by reality (I've since heard the same line used for Madison, Austin and Berkeley). Like Boulder, the real Telegraph Avenue exists in an idealized borderland surrounded by reality that stretches 4.5 miles from downtown Oakland to U.C. Berkeley. On this street you find the restaurants, used clothing shops, street vendors, bookstores, RECORD SHOPS, college students, hipsters, eccentrics, tourists and the homeless. This setting, like Brokeland itself, is in many ways the natural habitat of Chabon. That very setting is both a blessing and a curse in this novel. First, it allows Chabon to do what he does best. He can vamp about people, sing with the language of the street, jump, jive and pirouette with English prose in a way that makes writers drool with envy. 'Telegraph Avenue' is 26,784 sq in (9 in x 6.2 in x 480 pps) surrounded by reality.The downside is, in 'Telegraph Avenue', Chabon gives us (for the most part) almost exactly what we expect. It is a ostinato playground with strong and confident prose riffs, but offers the safety of repetition and the comfort of Nat's call and Archy's response.But let's just get real. I'm reviewing this novel because I loved it. Because I was waiting for his book to drop like my young son waits for his favorite balloon magician to go to start blowing and twisting.Both Chabon's successes and his literary failures grow from the reality that he takes more risks in one sentence than many writers take in one chapter. If I judge him harder than this book deserves, perhaps it is only because his previous novels (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, etc) have cast such huge, intense literary shadows in my mind. Any future work by Chabon has a helluva fight for recognition or equivalence. Reading 'Telegraph Avenue' I was tempted to believe that even Chabon's farts must sometimes sing when he is walking from Oakland to Berkeley.

  • Michael
    2019-02-10 14:33

    What a delight to be treated to this life affirming story after sustaining a series of books by Chabon that did not live up to the pleasures of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.” He clearly loves all his characters in this tale, and I was quite satisfied how their challenges in his narrative led them to evolve toward their visions in some cases or successfully stumble past their misfortunes in others.The story concerns the struggles of a black couple, Archy Stallings and Gwen Shanks, in keeping their businesses, their marriage, and their principles alive in their multicultural community in Oakland in 2004. Archy runs Brokeland Records with his Jewish partner, Nat, which faces extinction from the impending development of a big-box book and record store in their neighborhood of Telegraph Avenue. Gwen runs a midwifery business with Mat’s wife Aviva, which is threatened by conflicts with the local hospital and potential lawsuits from clients. On top of these problems, Gwen is due to deliver her first baby soon, Archy’s teenaged son he’s never met turns up in town as a friend and lover of Nat and Aviva’s son, and Archy’s estranged father, Luther, once a kung-fu star in “blaxploitation” films from the 80’s, is up to some kind of blackmail scheme. In the middle of all this, a talented jazz musician who was a father figure to Archy dies, and most of Archy’s focus settles on a funeral event that will bring the community together.Oakland's Diesel Bookstore, which hosted Chabon's book publication celebration and stood in for the closed one that inspired the book, Berrigan's Records Listing some of these menu items I believe does nothing to spoil the reading pleasures that can be had from Chabon’s marvelous execution of the tale. Page after delicious page, I found great comedy and pathos in his construction, engaging dialog, and flights of prose that much resemble the jazz riffs that figure largely in his perpetual homage and metaphorical references to music. There is no hint of egoistic pretentiousness in his prose. When he slips “over the top”, it’s all in good fun. A parrot named Fifty-Eight, belonging to one of Brokeland’s regular customers, contributes to a farcical deflation on some serious discussions early in the book. A remarkable chapter covering the bird’s getaway comprises a 12-page sentence that darts in and out from the bird’s perspective to an omniscient view of the book’s main characters. To me, it ranks up there with similar stream-of-consciousness flights in Joyce, Woolf, and Pynchon.The following are some samples of Chabon’s the writing style and playful method of delivering insights in the book.Gwen reflects on her marriage:As for her marriage, she had fallen in love with Archy Stallings having no illusions about his sexual past or his strength of character. But the outbreak of forgiveness that followed each new transgression of her husband, as typhus followed a flood, called into question the difference, if any, between illusion and its willful brother, delusion, with its crackpot theories and tinfoil hat.Archy, trying to hook his Councilman to support his cause against the competing development: Councilman, you made me realize, thank you, but me and Mr. Jones and Nat Jaffe and our kind of people, we already got a church of our own. You, too, seemed like at one time, up to not too long ago, a member in good standing. And that church is the church of vinyl.Some revelations on Archy’s character from his hero musician Cochise Jones:“You got the good heart. Underneath all the other stuff. Good heart is eighty-five percent of everything in life.” Tears ran burning along the gutters of Archy’s eyes. Generally, he tried, following the example of Marcus Aurelius, to avoid self-pity, but Archy had not experienced a great deal of appreciation in his life for his good qualities, for his potential as a man. …Only Mr. Jones had always stopped to drop a needle in the long inward spiraling groove that encoded Archy, and listen to the vibrations. … “What is the other fifteen percent?”, Nat said, “Just out of curiosity?” “Politeness,” Mr. Jones said without hesitation. “And keeping a level head.”A black entrepreneur behind the megaplex store puts the mission of selling used records into perspective:All right then, look at it this way. The world of black music has undergone some form of apocalypse, you follow me? You look at the landscape of the black idiom in music now, it is post-apocalyptic. Jumbled-up mess of broken pieces. Shards and samples. Gangsters running in tribes. …But face it, I mean, a lot has been lost. A whole lot. Ellington, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, we got nobody of that caliber even hinted at in black music nowadays. I’m talking about genius, composers, know what I’m saying? Quincy Jones, Charles Stepney, Weldon Irvine. Shit, knowing how to play the fuck out of your instrument. Guitar, saxophone, bass, drums, we used to own those motherfuckers. Trumpet! We were the landlords, white players had to rent that shit from us. … I’m saying we are living in the aftermath. All’s we got is a lot of broken pieces. And you’ve been picking up those broken pieces, and dusting them off, and keeping them all nice and clean, and that’s commendable. Truly.”Michael Chabon--by Jennifer Chaney/Salon

  • Jesse
    2019-01-24 13:31

    Sentence to sentence, just great. There's some wonderful writing about babies, and about commerce and old stores and those parts of Telegraph where Berkeley and Oakland kind of wander into each other (lived not far from there for about 2 years in early 90s, at at about 61st just off Claremont). Not to mention birthing and midwifery and lotsa nerd-boy stuff. Which is the problem. As early as Werewolves in Their Youth, Chabon started working the whole SF/fanboy/former nerd angle into his fiction, and there are a bunch of essays in his last collection about that as well. And of course Kavalier and Clay is maybe the ultimate meta-fanboy novel. I mean that in a good way. But here that whole worldview seems to have congealed into a key to all mysteries, such that each of the characters (OK, except for the wife of one of the guys who owns the used-vinyl store, but then we don't really get more than 5 pages of her character in a 460-page opus) not only indulges in some variety of archival inside-dopery (old r&b, comic books, blaxploitation) but seems to conceive of it in much the same way. Which makes them all too obviously offshoots of one writer's mind, and I don't really buy that. It's as if the essential aridity of these (male) preoccupations is meant to be counterposed to the fraught reality and bloodiness of organic birthing--with, OK, some irony, since Chabon has one of his characters note the obvious fact that only wealthy white Berkeleyans can afford to go back to the land there, so to speak--but in a way that secretly suggests that maybe we're all secret archaeolgists of some kind of mass-made crap or another. Which I also don't buy. Shouldn't there be some sort of statute of limitations on mining your sense of yourself as a fat nerdy adolescent when you are now as rich, successful, and good-looking as Michael Chabon manifestly is? (And in fact has been since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, to judge by cover photos?) I'd love to see him deal with his life as it is now in some way instead of continuing to pretend he's still that kid. I mean, he even turned writer's block into Wonder Boys. So why not go back to that sense of honest self-appraisal and write something reflecting who he is now?

  • Jacob Overmark
    2019-02-20 10:22

    Main characters; Archy Stallings (black) and Nat Jaffe (Jewish). Gwen Shanks (pregnant) and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, both mid-(and)wifes.Other characters: Luther Stallings (drug addict, small scale criminal, formerly movie star)Valetta More (Luther´s sometime girlfriend, porn star quality)The Undertaker and his family of gangsters …The ex-NFL star Gibson Goode, now a ruthless entrepreneur under the pretext of local development.The 100-year old Chinese Kungfu mistress.Customers at the Broke(!)land Records.The poor of the world.The corrupt politicians.An extremely fat lawyer.A man in a wheelchairA lot of hot air (contained in an airship)Guest starring: Barack ObamaIn the plot we have all the elements a man’s midlife crisis is supposed to contain. Detachment from a drug addicted father, attachment to another father figure who unexpectedly dies, inability to take upon you a father role and out of touch with your “inner self”. Add to this an obsession with old cars, living in the past and few extramarital affairs and you pretty much have Archy Stallings.The storyline is more or less governed by Murphy´s Law; Anything that can go wrong will, marriage, family relations in general, business, friendships will be strained, and someone will get a beating or face lawsuit. To complete the scenery, we have a painful coming of age story involving a bit of boy on boy action between Nat´s son Julius/Julie and Archy´s estranged son Titus. (Authors Note: Make sure to throw in a bunch of lesbians too and remember one of them is going through the first phases of chemical sex change, all minorities must be included). Set in 2004 Oakland in the area around Telegraph Avenue and drawing lines back to the 70-ties, there is a lot of colors, colorful people and music. But, whatever the intention was, this is like watching a blaxploitation film and not a particularly good one. The clichés are piling up and there is not such thing as refinery. 476 pages of clichés are too much – and just because you can, a 15-page monologue without punctuation does not save the day. 3 stars, sucker!

  • Garythe Bookworm
    2019-02-15 14:43

    Telegraph Avenue is a major commercial thoroughfare in a minor California city. It is also the setting of Michael Chabon's brilliant slice in the life of Archie, the half-owner of a used record store, struggling with impending fatherhood, and Gwen, his wife, a fast-talking, hormonally-challenged midwife, who is determined to have her baby with him, or without him, and to salvage her career after an unfortunate encounter with a smug physician. Two of the many people who complicate their struggles are Archie's estranged father, a minor film star from the 1970's and a recovering addict, clamoring for forgiveness, and Archie's illegitimate teenage son, Titus, desperate for a Dad, even one as ambivalent as Archie. Chabon takes on a lot in this sprawling celebration of life in an American city in the throes of reinvention. He conjures up unforgettable, lyrical descriptions of a time and place and offers a template for renewal-both urban and personal- which factors in both individual and collective responsibility. The book cover calls it an intimate epic, bursting with joy and humor, that is as profound as it is magical. I agree.

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    2019-02-10 14:51

    Telegraph Avenue, a strip of mostly hanging-in-there shops and a funeral parlour in Oakland, California, is home to Brokeland Records, a rare and secondhand vinyl record shop run by old friends, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe. It's August 2004, Archy's wife Gwen, a midwife, is thirty-six weeks' pregnant, Nat's only child, Julius, is having a sexual relationship with his new friend, Titus, and the record shop is barely scraping by, partly dependent on the records bought by their long-standing customers, locals who hang out at the shop as if it were a diner.Gwen and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, Nat's wife, run their own midwife partnership, and it's on this day that a home birth ends badly. Tired and stressed, especially after having caught Archy with another woman, Gwen loses her cool when the hospital OB, Dr Lazar, accuses them of nearly killing mother and child and of practicing voodoo. When he makes some ill-judged comment about black women's hair, things turn ugly, but it's Lazar who threatens proceedings against the women.Things are just as strained at Brokeland Records, where the end of the shop looms now that Gibson Goode, fifth-riches black man in the United States, has won council approval to build a new "Dogpile Thang" - a giant music shop - on Telegraph Avenue. Archy's father, Luther Stallings, an ex-blaxploitation movie star and martial arts world champion who's spent all Archy's life being a flake, a drunk and a has-been with delusions of fame, is back in Oakland, stirring up trouble which comes knocking on Archy's door, in the form of Chandler Flowers, director of the funeral parlour, and his many nephews, one of which now works for Goode. And to make a strained marriage even worse, Gwen learns about Titus, whose resemblance to Archy is clear. The sudden death of a dear friend gives Archy time to put off making any decisions about the shop, Titus or his marriage. As Michael Chabon's new novel, Telegraph Avenue is an impressive work, being both a keenly astute depiction of people who feel distinctly real, and an artistic display of writers' craft: one of those books that reads like a work of art. Because of that, there will be a great many people who won't enjoy this, as it makes it even more subjective to interpretation and appreciation - just like not everyone likes Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers, for example (c'mon, I can't be the only one who finds it ugly and depressing!). Rich with pop culture references, everything from music to film to books to furniture, Telegraph Avenue sometimes reads like a time capsule, a documentary capturing a time and place and the people in it, with all their scabs revealed. It unobtrusively incorporates themes of race and class in America, and explores our oft-times fragile relationships in times of stress. A book as layered and complex as this cannot be summed up neatly, but requires a deeper look.As a character-driven book, rather than a plot-driven one, it excels. The characters really come alive, being both familiar and strange, simple and complex. Chabon uses an omiscient "telling" style of narration, yet so much is not revealed that you are still an active reader in the process of understanding them. Archy is more-or-less the main character, the one everyone else has in common, and the one who stands out the most. Which is interesting, considering his inability to make decisions or take a stand. The most assertive he gets is in dealings with his unreliable father, Luther, who has a rather sad scheme of making a come-back with his long-time girlfriend, Valletta Moore. For all the omniscient detail, you never get very close to any of the characters - for every thing you learn about them, that seems so intimate and a peering-into-their-soul, there're two things more you don't. Important conversations are not included, and it's hard to tell whether they even happened, off-page. It can make you feel a little frustrated.Unlike similar "real people, real stories" novels, novels about "dysfunctional families" (i.e. normal families), like Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (a book I really didn't like), the omniscient narrator is an observer as much as we are, rather than a "let me tell you how it is, now shut up and listen" voice. There's so much more respect here, for the characters, and sympathy. Nothing's black-and-white (a deliberate irony?). No one is that easily summed up, no matter how tempting it can be, and Chabon excels at capturing nuances, and secret thoughts, and how we react to things. The characters were a mesmerising mix of familiar and utterly strange - I've never lived in the U.S., I know about their race and class issues only from the outside, and my American history is patchy. I don't have, I didn't inherit or learn, their whites vs. blacks dichotomy and prejudice. But unlike with Franzen's unpleasant yuppy characters, I could actually relate to Chabon's. For as heavy with detail as Telegraph Avenue is, there is so much more to intuit.None of these echoes prepared Titus for the truth of the greatness of Luther Stallings as revealed in patches by the movies themselves, even the movies that sucked ass. None readied him for the strange warmth that rained down onto his heart as he sat on the couch last night with the best and only friend he'd ever had, watching that balletic assassin in Night Man, with those righteous cars and that ridiculous bounty of fine women, a girl with a silver Afro. Luther Stallings, the idea of Luther Stallings, felt to Titus like no one and no place had ever felt: a point of origin. A legendary birthplace, lost in the mists of Shaolin or the far-off technojungles of Wakanda. There in the dark beside Julie, watching his grandfather, Titus got a sense of his own life's foundation in the time of myth and heroes. For the first time since coming to consciousness of himself, small and disregarded as a penny in a corner of the world's bottom drawer, Titus Joyner saw in his own story a shine of value, and in himself the components of glamour. [p.268]Another strong aspect of this novel, and one that will make it stand out from other, similar family stories, is the wealth of pop culture references and the strong sense of humour. It is awash, it is swimming in references, many of which I didn't get, being of the wrong generation, the wrong nationality, or simply from having different interests. But whenever I did get a reference, I was filled with such glee! It was almost like a game. The ones I didn't get barely impeded my progress - it would have been fun, and more satisfying, to understand the connotations behind "the A-side of the late Bob Benezra's copy of Kulu Sé Mama (Impulse!, 1967)" record, or be able to picture Captain EO as depicted on Archy's jumper, but you get the gist from the context and that's enough for it all to make sense.While the pop culture references make it lots of fun, as well as creating a character out of time and place, the humour saves the storylines and characters from becoming bleak and depressing, a la Franzen's epistle to worthless people (yeah, I really didn't like that book!). Reading Telegraph Avenue was rather like watching Saturday morning cartoons, in a way. Has that feel to it. Possibly aided by references to comic books and kung fu movies, and by the sense that this book is actually a movie, was written as a movie (it has recently been optioned as a film) - it would adapt extremely well to the screen, even without the vivid prose.The language is sophisticated, intelligent and witty, the sentences and structure of the narrative requiring your time and attention. The narrative meanders in and out of the scene, going off on tangents, taking the time to describe something in a more convoluted way than is strictly necessary It can take a while to get the hang of it, though it's very much worth it. And hear and there are such great lines as this, referring to Gibson Goode's zeppelin: "Archy regarded the big black visual pun on centuries of white male anatomical anxiety and felt it trying, like Kubrick's melismatic monolith, to twist the wiring of his brain." [p.218] Part III, in fact, is one gigantic 12-page-long sentence that - again giving it the feel of a movie - follows a talking parrot called Fifty-Eight as it crosses paths with the central characters, giving us a birds'-eye view, a montage of what's happening in a moment of time.The themes of race and class are not forced into the story, but are simply there, rising to the surface every now and then, as they become relevant. Telegraph Avenue offers a gentle social commentary on what it means to be black in Oakland, California, but more than that: race becomes not a separate issue, or even a defining one, but one often forced onto the characters by others, usually whites. One of the interesting things about reading this book is how long it takes you to realise, and figure out, which characters are black and which, white. And because you find yourself consciously pondering this, you realise, too, how important this has become, perhaps socially or culturally, something we've learned as we grow up: to look for markers, ways of identifying people, categorising them, in order to understand and even predict them. Race isn't an "issue" until we make it one; before that, it's as if the characters themselves weren't aware of a black/white dichotomy. And at first, Telegraph Avenue defies this. Later, when it's all straight in your head and seems obvious, it delves into it a bit more. Gwen, in particular, is a conduit for the themes of race and class.Gwen recalled a lecture of Julie's, delivered one night when he was ten or eleven, on the difference between terraforming and pantropy. When you changed a planet's atmosphere and environment to suit the needs of human physiology, that was terraforming; pantropy meant the alteration of the human form and mind to allow survival, even prosperity, on a harsh, unforgiving world. In the struggle to thrive and flourish on the planet America, some black people had opted for the epic tragedy, grand and bitter, of terraforming; others, like Gwen's parents and their parents and grandparents before them, had engaged in a long and selective program of pantropy. Black pantropy had produced, in Gwen and her brothers, a clutch of viable ad effortless success-breathers, able to soar and bank on thermals of opportunity and defy the killing gravity of the colony world. [p.287]It was hard for me to read the parts of Gwen and Aviva's trouble with the hospital board over their midwifery - it was hard to believe there are doctors who not only think such things about midwifery, but would say them too, and for much of the book I didn't understand why Gwen was being called - or why - and not the doctor. I didn't see that they'd done anything wrong at Lydia's home birth, and the doctor was the one who said insulting, derogatory things to them; Gwen just rose to the bait. (And I thought, too, that we give heavily pregnant women some slack for having less patience than usual.) It was confusing and uncomfortable, and I'm not sure how much of it is due to it being set in California. There's so much to talk about when talking about this book - I expect to read other reviews and feel like they read a different book, just based on the tropes that other readers will pick out for discussion. There's a lot I haven't touched on, either for space/time considerations or because I want to avoid spoilers. It comes down to this, for me: it's a book I'm extremely impressed by, and did enjoy reading, but I'm perhaps more impressed by its craftsmanship than in love with how it's written. I don't generally love clever writing, it has to be something special to not seem plain wanky, and there were times when I leaned towards thinking this was over-written. But the writing and the story, the characters, couldn't be separated - the writing makes the characters, the prose voice shapes them and reveals them, I couldn't imagine it written any other way. So I'm torn. Overall, though, I very much enjoyed it, and can see that you would glean even more from it on a second or third reading.My thanks to HarperCollins for a copy of this book.

  • Super Amanda
    2019-02-03 11:50

    I wish Chabon would stop acting like a spokesperson for the East Bay Area. He did not grow up there or even spend his 20s there. He knows ZERO about what it was like to be there during the 70s especially-just embarrassing to read. He arrived with all the techies and transplants. Thus viewed as a complete satire and a send up the book might actually work but as a piece of American social lit (however whimsical) it is a HUGE yerba mate goji-berry infused DUD littered with an appalling number of racial stereotypes and odd attempts at Joyce style free-flow. The names are all similar (they change and shift sometimes in the same paragraph) that the book should have ideally come with a list of characters. Chabon is a wordsmith par excellence, overly micro managed and prone to using pretentious general anatomy vocabulary but he still delights-just not with this book. I held high hopes for this, my first Chabon book, and was let down. As I grew up in the East Bay pre dot com, was on Telegraph every weekend as a kid/tween, moved at 14 years old visiting often, commuting for four years and then moving back full time from 2002-2006 (in 2004 I lived right off of Telegraph at Alcatraz and later 42nd) I have a great deal of life experience first hand on this very road. People mistakenly have compared this book to "White Teeth" and "NW" by Zadie Smith. Smith actually IS from the London areas that she writes of while Chabon is not from the Bay Area, arriving very late in the game during the dot com boom. For all of Chabon's dazzling talent he has scant insight into what the real Telegraph Avenue was and is.In this mostly negative review (offered in detail to add balance to the gushing and over whelmingly fawning reviews which greeted this book in the MSM literary world) I have not forgotten the man's undeniable talent-few could. But it is dangerous and very naive to believe, as the reviewers who lionized Chabon for this book that the aftermath ('broken pieces' according to Chabon) of a death or loss of community business in a lower income area is somehow liberating and "very beautiful indeed"(LA review of books) for the reader to enjoy. Urban blight, murder, being low income etc are diseases that cut short lives, destroy families and kill dreams, not a serendipitous 'gift' that leads to the "community as phoenix" (my words).The MAJOR flaw in Telegraph Avenue is that this is a non-native transplant's view of the Bay Area, post 1997 with all the generic Yelp locations (Fenton's, Joaquin Miller, Peets, Oliveto) name dropped. I will give Chabon credit for accurately referencing the niche Rather Ripped Records, moreover the wonderful Neibyl-Proctor Marxist Library but crucial cultural East Bay locations were overlooked or "quiche-ified". For all his love of the land, Chabon simply does not KNOW the old school East Bay despite what appears to have been some extensive research to appear as if he does. He's a kindly, wide eyed interloper not an East Bay native with Telegraph as his his petri dish not his stomping grounds. Unlike Richard Linklater's coming of age cult film "Dazed and Confused", a 1976 story set in Texas, Chabon mistakenly takes his 70s and tries to place it where it simply does not fit. Linklater's 70s was very different than the Bay Area's but by staying on his own ground as an artist he made it work and the film was actually very popular in Northern California. Thus Chabon would have been better off setting a 70s/2004 story back East where HE came of age or writing of a large progressive family of transplants living in Elmwood circa 2004. But the worst part of TA is Michael Chabon's attempt to write from a Black person's perspective. It reads like a huge unintentionally patronizing FAIL, not unlike The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron which was to paraphrase Paul Robeson, Jr., "a white liberal's distortion". I'm white, I grew up with father in the record and music industry (much of it RnB, Acid Funk and Space Rock) and later I co-founded a Bay Area based Black/Socialist history based non profit 501c3 with a multi-racial group of people. Other than Cochise Jones, NONE of the Black characters felt authentic to me. Michael Chabon's misappropriation of Black Bay Area culture I found incredibly important in that it shows, even in 2013, that anti-racist and intelligent progressives are reflexively prone to rote racial fetishism and mindbogglingly tired stereotypes. This includes the common horror movie archetype of the Black character being confused, irrational and "losing it" and unable to make few intellectual choices (or any at all) under pressure. There is also tardiness, the strong black woman, infidelity, homophobia, insolvency, felony criminal history, inarticulateness, overly ostentatious appearance, the over sexed Black buck, dead beat dads, hair and nail obsession, filthy homes, animal negligence...pretty much every bad stereotype that exists of Blacks in film and popular culture is found in kindly liberal Michael Chabon's book. It was odd to see educated people like Gwen and Archie acting "street" and unable to make sound, healthy decisions (eg: why would a nearly due pregnant woman abandon her home and comfort to sleep in a dusty Kung Fu studio and leave her cheating husband with everything?) Whereas the white couple, Nate and his wife were very grounded, defiant and confident under stress. Indolent Archy is intimidated into taking a ride in the big box big wig's luxury Zeppelin while Nate actually lets it go in a crazy act of drunk courage and heroic defiance. Nate stood up to authority while Archy wavered. Gwen went nuts while Aviva stayed balanced. Julie wanted love while Titus just wanted sex and was unable to express much emotion. When Gwen does finally focus and stand up for herself it is justifiably (but predictably) to sue over racist statements made by a white higher up at a local medical center. Chabon has the right to create whatever he wants I'm just shocked that people find accuracy and so called 'solid ground' social realism in the book! It reads like a white liberal's self congratulatory parody of the multi-cultural Bay Area or to paraphrase my GoodReads friend Stephanie "inner city tourism". The bizarre tourist trade at Harlem's Sunday church services that Slate Magazine covered a few years ago seems an apt cultural companion to this book, which also borders on the white upper middle class racially fetishistic auto-pilot of what Jello Biafra termed "bragging that you know how the ******* feel cold, and the slums got so much soul". Yet it is Chabon himself who acknowledges this within the pages of this very book numerous times! Is this an honest, brave move on his part or just a "Uriah Heepish" one? 'Just an 'umble observer/anthropologist trying to do me best sir, yer right white people, you can feel validated that you were correct all along about the ghetto and I'm humbly enough to say we all shared in making this book happen..." Something in between perhaps? I'm not sure. The fail feels unintentional but is that really excusable given how lionized he has become as a literary figure? This books seems to have pleased the MSM/literary critics world which is almost 100% white. The only non -white (marginally) msm review I could find (Attica Locke) summed up the book in The Guardian with: "This is the Chabon I most recognize: writer as humanitarian." Chabon said afterwords in Spin that her "generous review" made him "really relieved." It would have been interesting to hear other reviews by non-whites of this view but they do not appear to exist in the msm.Of course when it comes to creating and writing Black characters well few have the genius of Harper Lee (or even Quentin Tarantino). Both of the aforementioned artists were not from privilege whereas Chabon grew up (regardless of any Bohemian aspects) upper middle class. Ultimately it is Chabon's well off upbringing that by default cuts him off from truly understanding Oakland and the poorer side of Berkeley-not his race. Telegraph is partly "in the ghetto" to Chabon yet to most who grew up in Oakland (despite some very bad streets), lower Elmwood, Rockridge and Temescal were/are the VERY, VERY nice part of flatlands. Those areas are on the gradient away from East Oakland and West Oakland which are areas with severe generational poverty and violent crime. Speaking of which "Dog Town", "Jingle Town" , "Ghost town" etc those are all names dropped by transplants and were not in wide usage outside Oakland until Even Glenview, Temescal, Maxwell Park and Millsmont all were either unearthed or magically created when the real estate bubble, and the transplant invasion occurred. "Adam's Point"? "Alice Arts"? The names grow more pretentious with each wave of transplants fooling themselves into thinking locals use these designations too. Thus Chabon writing about Berkeley/Oakland is like that mechanic whom never owned a car.And while his Telegraph Avenue has been described as "multi-cultural', this is erroneous as Chabon's TA is Black and White, not the very diverse, mixed area which it has been since about the mid 1960s. At about halfway through and there is a 98 year old Chinese Martial arts instructor embarrassingly warmed over from a discarded Tarantino script who has appeared but her character like the two Hispanic characters and one Near Asian Cabbie they are not explored in length. The Gay Julie and the Lesbian Kai are written as weak and confused while the severely disabled man is viewed in complete contempt, not even given a name. Chabon's usage of what I'll call "Ebonics-lite" is embarrassing and coupled with his very weak grasp of Bay Area landmarks and history it is a bad combination. The 70s flashbacks are perhaps the most pallid, and incorrect in cultural literacy. He's an amazing writer when he writes about the entire spectrum of Jewish/European American culture (easily the best part of TA via the character of Nate Jaffe) but the race of people East Bay born are beyond Chabon's reach and Chabon has a Black home birth midwife yelling at a White doctor Lazar (named for the cult actor John Lazar perhaps?) in "Chimes Hospital" emergency room with a 'purple skittle on his butt' over the fact he thought the Ylang, ylang used in the home birth is "voodoo". Then the same doctor tells the mid wife "this is child birth it is not like conking your hair". A waiting room patient (presumable Black) lets out an "awww shit...." In reality Chimes was an old school community market on College and Keith (a pharmacy bearing the same name still exists a few minutes up the road at Alcatraz) which is now Cactus Taqueria. I would put money on the fact that there are few to zero white MDs that know the term "conking your hair" unless they sat through multiple screenings Spike Lee's Malcolm X. And Chabon would have you believe that East Bay Area circa 2004, was an episode of "Good Times" with loud choruses of Black voices shouting in unison "uh oh!" , "damn she country y'all", and "oh yeah" emanating from unseen speaker boxes strategically placed throughout North Oakland. "Ibex faced" Ethiopian waitresses" administering quickie BJs during the buffet hours was another cringe worthy fetish move as well. Kudos for anticipating the skittle(s) in a faux multi-cultural context though, that was a look into the future (though as the book was released post Trayvon Martin, I'm wondering who came first...) The pop culture outside of the splendid Jazz references feel off as well. Chabon gets Grady Tate, the Jazz and schoolhouse rock icon confused with Grady WILSON, the character from "Sanford and Son" played by the late Whitman Mayo. The positive sides are that Chabon did get the Bay Area weather, the Emeryville docks, a safe house and cooking put down on page very well and the musical references are smart though (once again) 95% of the tracks were not hugely popular in Oakland and Berkeley during the time period mentioned outside of jazz snob OCD vinyl purists.Traditionally were no proper Jazz-centric areas of the East Bay and here Chabon's East coast roots clearly show. Eventually towards the last third, the novel's structure steadily improves, you get used to the kitsch and the plot picks up with the music of Carole King's "Too Late"- a classic Bay Area theme if there ever was one. The prose becomes easier to read and the characters are finally fun and not baffling. Though I did have to ask myself if my attitude softened because the end was near.Finally one can at least be inspired by this book by wanting to point out its gross inaccuracies about Bay Area culture. If a book inspires outrage instead of indifference then it has at least something going on. It will be wonderful to do a reading group with other Bay Area natives and some North Bay friends including one pal who is not only Black but ran a record store. I hope to come back to this and reread it at some point, perhaps trying to harder to seek out Chabon's optimism which was lost on me. Again, if this was not lauded as social lit it would be a different case. Chabon is an amazing writer but in this book he's all style and no substance. And do hope that one day a true Bay Area born native nails a book about the area pre and, letting the literary world truly see what an amazing place it was and in some ways will always be. As long as native bay area torch bearers remain stalwart as to ward off erroneous and kitschy assumptions about the area's culture that starry eyed transplants like Michael Chabon tend to bring with them (alongside crippling rents and housing prices) Telegraph Avenue will always stay real and on the good foot.

  • Paul
    2019-01-29 09:23

    About halfway through the novel, in the midst of a 12-page-long sentence which comprises the whole of Section III of V, Chabon uses the phrase "short story long," which pretty much sums it up. Let it be known that I am most definitely not a fan of Chabon (after reading Kavalier & Clay and then Maps and Legends), and only read this because I felt like I had to, as I live a block off of Telegraph. I gave it an honest chance, but ended up speeding through it pretty quick, because it bugged me right off the bat. All the stuff that's supposed to be funny just felt "cute" to me, the midwifery stuff felt contrived, the larger issues seemed watered down, and I just didn't care. The book is archly contemporary, in that casually-written, slang-heavy way that can work or not work, but usually just doesn't work for me. The tendency to span decades and multiple characters with multiple subplots and blah blah is also somewhat annoying, though it's not a specifically contemporary thing, obviously. It just seems like every young "hot" author is trying to write the Great American Novel, and as such must weave together multiple plotlines to give the book both breadth and depth. The thing is grossly overwritten, too. I mean, there's a 12-page-long sentence in here, FCOL. Whatever. I guess this just didn't change my mind about Chabon, and I'll probably just stop reading his books. Oh, and the Obama cameo was just plain stupid.

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-02-16 11:47

    I think this book should come with its own sound track and each time another artist/track/ song from eons ago is mentioned it should play gently, harmoniously and briefly as a back drop to the book. Why? Well, like ambience and stuff. I am sure this must be possible as an added extra on kindle by now, surely?This is a tale of many characters the existence of whom hinges on a dated but much loved record store on the eponymous street. Archy Stallings and business partner (muso bromance) Nat Jaffe are the owners of Brokeland records and they are about to be broke by nature too as nemesis Gibson Goode, owner of musical megalopololis megastore Dogpile music is about to open a vast new vinyl emporium on their door step. Impending financial doom is mixed with the arrival of Archy's hitherto ignored and unacknowledged teenage son and his own wayward ex film star ex junky Dad... former kung fu kickass but now just a pain in the ass. Add to this a soupcon of troubled teenage love, a bit of historic gangster action and some priceless and probably highly flammable leisure suits et voila, Telegraph Avenue.Obviously a tri-generational recipe for family chaos. I didn't love this but didn't loath it either. It lacked the charm of The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay which was kick ass with a capital K. This was merely ok (no capital K). Essentially i didn't feel like rooting for any of the characters but I would really like a ride in the Dogpile Blimp please.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-28 07:41

    I was looking forward to revisiting my old town through Chabon's words, but not enough to finish the book. The first 12 pages weren't bad, but then more characters are introduced and I lost interest. The plot meanders. Skimming some of the reviews here only clinches it: For a 465-page book, I would rather read something else.

  • Gary
    2019-02-16 14:27

    I saw the author in person last night....he read a section from this novel. Wow. I almost wanted to start over and read it again...he did an awesome job. The room was full. I took 9 of his books with me,and bought 3 more, for my son....he was very gracious and signed them all. What a nice guy,and what an author.I will tell you that this book starts slow.....but stick with it.....he spends quite a bit of time setting it all up,and I will tell you it's worth it in the end. I love Kavalier and Clay,and this one comes in a close 2nd. I am now reading THE FINAL SOLUTION, which is the only book of his that I own that I've not read.If you see an ad that this man is making an appearance where you live see him. Funny! Great book. It made me listen to old vinyl all day the past couple of days as I read the book. You care deeply with the characters, at least I did..... and that's the magic of Chabon. Also, his prose, his vast sentences , just carry you away into the story,and makes you feel like you are there, witnessing all that's going on.....This book definately did that for me. I sooooo look forward to what Michael has in store for us next! I also loved his wit in person,and his wit in his books. This one made me laugh outloud often....experience TELEGRAPH AVENUE.

  • Marty Selnick
    2019-02-16 12:51

    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!)

  • Colin Barrett
    2019-02-16 08:44

    A good novel digs a hole in you and fills it with its own loam, an invasive kudzu strangling some delicate, native species of scrub. A great novel works the other way around—its beautiful, beaming stamen bursts forth, normally only growing on the impossible cliffs of some tropical island and yet somehow here it is anyway, cutting through your mind's backyard bougainvillea to illuminate, elucidate, aspirate.Telegraph Ave is, naturally, in the latter category. Its drama is of a familiar, familial sort: the foibles of fuckup fathers and their shiftless sons. The central patres familias, Nat (obsessive, bipolar, Jewish) and Archy (listless, shirkful, black), are top-notch Chabon men: there are echoes, ripples of Sammy Clay, Joe Kavalier and Meyer Landsman, but the pool of aether has calmed down. Telegraph Ave does not deal in immense, international crises or awful, blood-curdling murders but instead the quiet inner world of the family where nonetheless Panzer tanks do rumble quietly across the filial battlefield albeit slowly, thirty years slow in Archy's case.If the novel has a fault it is the inscrutability of the leading ladies, both wifed to the leading men. Passages involving Archy, Nat, and their sons all have a lived-in, inside-out feeling, like the ending of Being John Malkovitch—we're on the inside looking out. We don't quite penetrate Aviva and Gwen's shells, their secret tunnels on floor 7½ boarded up. (I greatly dislike novel-as-analysis but offer that Aviva, Nat's wife, feels awfully, uncomfortably close the passages in Manhood for Amateurs where Chabon describes his own wife.)Whatever the reason for the above shortcoming, it ultimately does not harm the book, for although Chabon does show, glimmering from the depths like the Rhinemaiden's gold at the bottom of the river, enough talent for writing women that I think he could easily forge a novel centered around one, no help from poor Mime required, Telegraph Ave is, like his last essay collection, an adjudication of Manhood and Men and Fathers and Sons and Uncles and (Male) Cousins. In fact, a first-order, ultimately unworthy reduction of the novel would be: Manhood for Amateurs in novel form.Telegraph Ave is more though than just a da capo. To my eye, Chabon has, between these ugly, silver-papered cardboard covers (although the red dust jacket is quite attractive), developed significantly as a prose stylist, really and truly letting it rip at times. The novel, written with the near-and-dear-to-my-heart Scrivener, is divided into five broad parts, perhaps tracks on the most epic A-side never committed to wax. (Thankfully the novel ends with enough of a preview of the B-side to satisfy our frontal cortex's hunger for object permanence.) Part III, A Bird of Wide Experience, is a single slick sentence that unfolds over twelve pages like a Tony Scott montage as we follow a particular parrot across the North Oakland landscape that Chabon, ever the map maker, has drawn for us and survey the momentary happenings of the novel's characters. Simply put: it's a cool, fun device that doesn't overstay its welcome.Throughout the book, Chabon's themes and language are tighter than ever before, slowing the normally Nat Jaffe–level thundering of his mental jumpcutting to a slower, more contemplative pace which gives his metaphors enough room to put down roots and bind the novel together on their superstructure. A grab bag of the preceding: so-called soul, funk and jazz records, circa '68–'78; all things cetaceous, with a double word score when combined with anything parturient; a veritable field guide to East Bay horticulture; the canon of film atop which Quentin Tarantino has built his career; careful attention to the vocabulary of both male and female fashion.In toto Chabon has wrought his best, most cinematic, most down-to-earth novel yet. As he eases into (what we can only hope is) his middle period, in his mid-to-late-40s, we see a novelist in touch with both himself and his characters and also pulling off the hardest trick in the figurative book: translating from one's own set of experiences to other, more alien lands, blasting off into the imagination like Julius Jaffe—call it bootstrapping, call it mapping, call it damn good writing. Whatever the rest of the balance sheet of Telegraph Ave says, Chabon remains on the plus side of the ledger by succeeding at corralling orneriest steer to roam the American mundus: race.I'm going to just lay it out, no tiptoeing from this here white boy: Chabon manages to write convincingly and sensitively about the subject of race and racism from the perspective of both white and black characters. Are some things essentialized, too on-the-nose? Yes, on both sides of the titular avenue that divides tofu-white Berkeley from Bump City. But, my god, this is a novel. Such complaints (see Slate's review for a survey) ring in my ears like schoolyard complaints about the "disturbing" lack of bathroom usage in Star Trek.A small example of Chabon at work that should silence the haters: he nails the cadences and forms of a bouquet of black pidgins, creoles and patois without using ugly, awkward devices like phonetics, contractions or onomatopoeiae that serve only to lower their speakers to Morlockian illiterates, especially when contrasted with this microrant's subjunctive white speakers who monologue in perfect Standard Written English. In Telegraph Ave you see no more apostrophes or slang when black characters speak than when white characters do, and yet Chabon's black characters still manage to sound black, each in their own individual, characteristic way.So pull off your gardener's gloves and wipe the sweat off your brow. You've trimmed back the kudzu enough. Telegraph Ave needs only sunlight, water and the fertile soil of your open mind to flourish.

  • Stephanie Sun
    2019-02-17 11:48

    Two stars is probably harsh for a book that attempts most of the things that I want Big Six front-list fiction to attempt (contemporary urban setting, large diverse cast, social commentary, and a focus on work and relationships) in my favorite voice (alternating close third-person).However, Telegraph Avenue felt like a two-star book, from beginning to magical baby ending. It was just not a pleasant, entertaining, satisfying, or enlightening way to spend time.It's not that I needed Chabon to be perfect—look at my five-star books, a lot more flawed but ambitious than small and perfect there—or even to attempt a very different book... Cogent deconstruction of Blaxploitation films + Oakland history + revealing three-dimensional portraits of bourgeois bohemians of multiple races, genders, orientations, and generations + old-fashioned family and work drama? I am in. I was so in for that book I bought Telegraph Avenue on its pub date.However, writing even a flawed but ambitious version of such a book would have taken real love, working through real shame, real risk—personal and professional. Instead, Telegraph Avenue is a pile of cliches and affection. It is page after page of affection without understanding—affection without understanding for ex-junkie blackmailers, affection without understanding for local eccentrics, affection without understanding for corrupt politicians, affection without understanding for adult humans with broken hearts. The stuff that was supposed to be serious and poignant felt self-pitying and bleak, and the stuff that was supposed to be quirky and fun felt staged at best, and like a most noxious kind of counter-culture tourism at worst. I haven't seen Django yet, but I do think that Quentin Tarantino is a serious artist. For all of his pomo flash and goofy wit, Tarantino has shown a better understanding of cruelty, evil, and the dark side of human nature in his best work than Chabon shows here. I've never been a huge fan of Chabon's prose, and after reading this I worry that he also just doesn't have the serious intellectual chops of a Hitchens or a Didion. (I gather that The Yiddish Policeman's Union is a better book than this, so hopefully I can revise my opinion after reading that.) I guess I wonder what his goals are as an artist: to move people? To share what he knows about life and love? To entertain? To challenge? To persuade? I felt like this was the work of someone without a clear and mature vision for what he has to say, and I was not in the mood to make sense of someone else's incoherent thoughts myself.

  • Janet
    2019-02-01 07:32

    So love digging into this contemporary, real world, adult Chabon. THIS is the Chabon I love, the book I'd been waiting for. Contemporary(ish) Oakland, two middle-aged guys with a gradually dying record store, two midwives in the real world, a universe where the "old days" keep coming back at you--lots of gorgeous, crap-Seventies overtones here--and man can he write. You laugh out loud just because the mots are so bon, the specificity of description so brilliantly exact, everything from the intricate interactions of decades-long friends to the quality of beat-up-ness of a '70s muscle car--"...and the hood was held shut by a frayed knot of nylon rope looped through the grille, several vanes of which had fallen out, leaving the unfortunate car with a gap-toothed and goofy Leon Spinks grin." That kind of writing. I don't mind the fanboy aspects of this, because they are so deeply couched in the poignant-pathetic-virtuous-realworld context of his Brokeland, the area right between Berkeley and Oakland and the name of the record store... these guys have wives and kids and lives and unslick parents, the texture of reality. I am thrilled beyond thrilled--love as ever his comic eye, a gentle one and yet too keen not to see the dark side, clear on the baddies and the forces against which the good must struggle.

  • Julie Ehlers
    2019-02-20 13:31

    Late last year I saw Michael Chabon give a reading from Moonglow at the public library in my city, and he was excellent—extremely gracious and funny (also very handsome. He smiled right at me once and I was dazzled). I left that night wanting nothing more than to be reading one of his books, and since my copy of Moonglow was still en route to me from Powell's, I decided it was an ideal time to tackle the nearly 500-page Telegraph Avenue instead. Of course my recent encounter with Chabon was a point in the book's favor, but this was tempered by my general suspicion of novels 400 pages or more. I tend to prefer my prose on the economical side. If you're going to write a sprawling story with multiple viewpoints, however, Telegraph Avenue is the way to do it. Sure, there are a lot of characters, but they're all connected to one another, and they're all connected to the city of Oakland, so there's a satisfying sense of cohesiveness here, and every detail feels important. The prose is dense, but warm and funny and vivid, and it shows that understanding of human complexity that I always appreciate, but don't always get, in novels. Telegraph Avenue deals with some serious issues, including race and the problem of large corporations draining both the money and the character from American cities, but Chabon always addresses these issues in the context of his characters' lives. By the time the book was over I felt that I'd really gotten to know these people and the Oakland of their experience, and I still look back on them quite fondly. I'm going to have to make some time for the rest of Michael Chabon's books. I think he's one of those rare authors who can do just about anything.

  • Susan Tunis
    2019-02-05 10:37

    The Church of VinylDepending on who you ask, Michael Chabon is either one of the finest writers of the English language working today or he is THE finest writer of the English language, full stop. My opinion vacillates between the two. A reputation like that comes with some pretty lofty expectations for each new book. I'm pleased to say that Chabon's latest, Telegraph Avenue, did not disappoint.At the core of this novel is Brokeland Records, described at points as "the church of vinyl" and "an institution." You know the place, or someplace like it--a down on its heels shop that's a gathering spot for a passionate community of its own making. Brokeland is owned by Archy Stallings (black) and Nat Jaffe (white, Jewish) and these partners echo the diversity and cultures of the Berkeley/Oakland neighborhoods straddled by the eponymous avenue.This is a long book. It's not epic. I'm not even sure that it's sprawling. But it is full. By the time you reach the end, you will be thoroughly familiar with the businesses, marriages, and families of both Archy and Nat. You'll have met and followed their lives, and the lives of their customers, their adversaries, and one well-educated parrot. You'll know the intimate details of their relationships and their personal histories. Chabon packs a whole heap of detail and digression into the course of his 480 pages, and that doesn't even include a boatload of pop culture references to 70's jazz, Blaxploitation films, and martial arts.Chabon's affection for his characters is contagious and it's hard not to love them, despite some glaring flaws. However, the Brokeland community is facing any number of threats. Perhaps the most looming is a media megastore helmed by an NFL legend that's being planned for the neighborhood. Their David won't survive this Goliath. Archy and Nat's wives, Gwen and Aviva, are also in business together, and Berkeley Birth Partners is likewise under threat due to a birth gone wrong. Things at home are equally challenging. Will Archy and Gwen's marriage survive his infidelities and the appearance of a previously unacknowledged 14-year-old son just weeks before the birth of their first child? A novelist recently told me that "the clock of your mortality is what moves you." Well, births and deaths are major events driving this narrative, and I'd argue that the clock of an 8-months-pregnant wife moves a story along as well. Meanwhile, the Jaffe household is dealing with their adolescent son's first serious infatuation—with Archy's teenage son. And also the fact that Nat is his own worst enemy. And into this rich stew is a complex subplot involving Archy's estranged father and a crime of the past resurfacing.It's a lot to take in, really. There's a lot going on. Despite all of this, the action of Telegraph Avenue is character-driven rather than plot-driven. At times, the meandering plot seems almost incidental, as we peer through the windows at these character's complicated lives. Some readers may feel frustration with the digressions, but for me, every word was a delight. It was the path, not the destination. And the path of this novel is strewn with Mr. Chabon's legendary language, the staggering vocabulary, the abundant humor, the soaring similes, the awesome freakin' sentences! I, personally, am ill-equipped to articulate just how extraordinary his gifts are. The man is a virtuoso. "Buoyant," "joyful," "exuberant"—these are words that are frequently used to describe Mr. Chabon's writing. He takes on serious subject matter, and deals with it suitably, but his language is simply irrepressible.Yes, there are some flashy scenes in this book that you will hear about—the 12-page sentence, the Obama cameo—but for my money Chabon's achievement is in the entirety of this work. He's created a world that's familiar and recognizable, yet somehow just a little better, shinier than reality. As I began reading this novel, I thought it was fantastic, but wouldn't replace Kavalier & Clay in my heart. But now I wonder. The real Telegraph Avenue is a short commute from my home, but it's Chabon's version that I will stay with me.

  • Schmacko
    2019-01-28 12:31

    Chabon has a gift for taking things that are mass market, pulp, and pop culture and spinning them into credible literary gold. I love him for this. In Telegraph Avenue, he tackles old R&B and jazz vinyl, blacksploitation films, and Kung Fu thrillers. He also captures a corner of Berkley that Chabon and his wife have lived in for years. It’s all in the service of a story about fathers and son – how father succeed, how they fail, and how sons carve their own paths because of or in spite of their own fathers.That’s the part that makes Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue endearing. Unfortunately, it also robs it of a bit of the whimsy and creativity Chabon’s other works possess in spades. Telegraph Avenue is still an engaging, heartfelt book; it’s just not as fantastic. It’s still a totally worthy read, and I can understand why others have it on their Top 2012 Books lists.That being said, Telegraph Avenue does get off to a slow, confusing start. There’s a 70s-famous Kung Fu actor – a black father with a criminal record, drug issues, and abandonment problems – he’s trying to restart his career. Then there’s his son – the main protagonist – who, with his best friend, is trying to keep their record store afloat as a famous football player makes a move to cut their business out from under them. The partner, the men’s wives – both midwives, the men’s two boys (one who’s realizing he’s gay), the football player, local jazz musicians, and even Obama make appearances.It all comes together eventually. When Archy – the record store owner – takes over the story and becomes its center, we see a flawed man on the verge of ruining his marriage. He has a son from a long-ago affair he’s all but forgotten about. His wife is also expecting a baby. Archy, though, still wants to be young, sow his wild oats, feel sexy, get in touch with the jazz music he loves so well – in short, be anything but a staid and stable husband and father.There has been no little discussion about Chabon, a Caucasian, creating and speaking through Archy, a black protagonist. Most of the somewhat-tense conversation has centered around the hip, jazz-infused language that Chabon has Archy and a lot of his friends use. Most of the time, it worked for me, though there were a few moments when Chabon’s creation got comically awkward; I felt Chabon might be trying to hard and using too many adjectives. Perhaps, though, this was Chabon’s risk in this book – creating a semi-ridiculous, “hip” black language. However, next to the wild risks of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or even The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Telegraph Avenue does seem less thrilling and almost silly.Smaller feats - like the chapter that is all one sentence - are still awesome. The struggle that the wives go through as midwives, the politics, and the red tape, are also fun to read. The kids are well drawn, too.Telegraph Avenue's crux – the updating of the 1950s view of fatherhood - is also cool and vital. Chabon knows to balance the shifting image of “dad” against the changing times. Vinyl and jazz are from bygone eras; so is the Kung Fu movie that Archy’s Lothario-leech dad was famous for. Archy’s partner’s son is coming out of the closet; that’s a newer experience for modern fathers. Archy’s own son both needs his dad and wants to assert his independence.In the end, Telegraph Avenue is still a beautiful and often funny novel, even when it misses those flights of fancy or literary experimentation that Chabon has practiced in other novels. At its heart, we can sense that Chabon himself has been on a soul searching about his own role as a father. Also ingrained is a sense of how to entertain readers. Finally, we also sense Chabon’s love of vinyl music and the community of Berkley that he captures. It adds certain warmth to Telegraph Avenue that replaces some of the previous whimsy and risk-taking I love in Chabon.

  • Lemar
    2019-01-26 14:44

    I could detect the alluring smell of Flint's Ribs wafting up from this book that captures the atmosphere of Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, where I lived in the early 1980's, my early twenties. Junior Wells and buddy Guy playing at the Omni, local blues at Eli's Milie High club. Oakland is still a happening place to be, still in mid-flourish while S.F. is getting so expensive its culture is threatened. Chabon captures small moments with tender clarity. His characters are diverse in type and in temperament and ring true because while he stretches widely in his characters, he knows how deep to go. From 80 year old Chinese Kung Fu female master to '70's stone fox chick to gay teen he gets each character and we know them by the end of the book. Gwen and Aviva own this book just as much as their husbands. He takes chances as a writer not only in the variety of characters he renders but in style. Section III is one long sentence that goes for 10 pages and it works! By this time you know the characters so well you are right there with him. That section reminded me of William Gaddis' JR. This novel takes place mostly in 2004 but it is all about links and the 1970's are never too far below the surface. Shared history links people together and so does music. The music itself is a living series of chain links that the astute listener like our protagonists Archy and Nat can articulate. Behavior too is recurring, and, like music, it can and must strive for its own identity but they are both boats against the current. This is the kind of book whose greatness lies in the fact that honors real lives, not the rich and famous but the true heroes, midwives who perform an often belittled service, musicians who never sold out, record store owners who are keepers of the flame. "What else am I fit for, you know? The ice melts, where do you put the penguin?" So, this is the kind of book unlikely to be made into a movie, but could I suggest Terrence Howard as Archy and Adam Goldberg as Nat Jaffe? He was in the Jewish blaxploitation film the Hebrew Hammer so...

  • Jessica
    2019-02-18 10:39

    I'm a little ashamed to admit how little I enjoyed this book. I don't want to be all "Books are hard," but there are too many plot threads and characters that I can't keep straight and Chabon's never-ending sentences seems less like a demonstration of his control of the English language than a demonstration of his inability to control his rambling thoughts. I am a smart person, dammit! I have a Master's degree in English and everything! Why do I feel like such an asshole for not getting on board with Chabon's showboat tangents (which is exactly what this feels like to me)? I mean, I enjoy seeing writers play around with their language. I love sentences that roll off your mental tongue, colorful metaphors and clever, philosophical descriptions of life, love, and the universe. I even like long sentences. But I don't like it when I get to the end of a sentence and forget how it started, and that's what's happening here. It's too dense, as though Chabon was trying so hard to come up with the most intricate way of describing even the most banal actions that he forgot that the reader has to be able to follow the plot. Though! There is one reference to "Awkward turtle," which is an expression I have been using for the last ten years, with the same distortions of the ASL sign for turtle and everything. My therapist once laughed at me when I described myself that way. So - Chabon at least made me smile with that one.

  • Book Him Danno
    2019-02-20 14:35

    I thought I should start with my bias first, so you can understand where I am coming from. A great novel should not be a chore to read. The first 30% of this book crawled along introducing many characters with too little action. So I had the double problem of both trying to be engaged in the limited plot and trying to figure out who was who and why they were even present. The story did finally get moving as you got (way) into it, but it was work, not enjoyment. And then he hits you with part 3, an 11 page sentence. I have read elsewhere that this demonstrates a masterful command of the English language, but it struck me as tedious and extremely hard to follow.Is there value to getting to the end of this book; most definitely, but you have to really want it. It reminds me of a gourmet food that initially tastes terrible, but the connoisseur will say it is an acquired taste. If you keep working through it you will end up loving it. I think Chabon is asking a little too much of his readers to work through it. It seemed he was trying too hard to write an ultrahip book, to show off his unique writing devices, and anything else he could think of rather than just write a straight forward tale. Of course it could just be that I wasn't quite smart enough to get it, and I will leave that to other readers to decideIn the end I was disappointed especially after loving his previous works so much. Specifically I can highly recommend Kavalier and Clay, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Summerland.

  • Hannah
    2019-01-23 06:49

    UPDATED 10/9/17: I have removed one star (down from 2 stars).1 Star - NopeThis book is mediocre at best. There are so many different reasons why I didn't like/relate/connect to this book. Let me explain a few. The writing, oh the writing. This is my first book by Michael Chabon and I'm sorry it was. I can see read that he can write well. The problem is that there is so much of it and a lot of it does nothing for the story. At multiple points, I wanted to shake the book in the hopes that 25 to 75 pages of superfluous words/sections would fall out. Sadly, that didn't happen. This book would have been significantly better if the author had a better editor, or knew how to edit better himself. The plot did not interest me, and I had an inkling it wouldn't before I started reading. So, part of the blame for my dislike is on me (only a very small part though:) ). On top of the main plot, there were some subplots that I felt distracted from the story and made it drag. I just wanted it to end. I didn't totally hate the women's subplot but it wasn't enough to make me love or even like this book. Overall, the plot felt convoluted and then coupled with the tedious writing I felt like I was drowning in mediocrity. With that being said, this isn't the worst book I've ever read and thus the two stars. Would I recommend this one? No, it wouldn't be on my list of recommended books. Will I read more by Chabon? Yes, partly because I already own another one of his books and also because I really want to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

  • Mattia Ravasi
    2019-02-15 10:44

    Video-review: in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2015: words: Chabon goes late-Pynchon.After trans-continental tales of triumph and revenge, swashbuckling stories of oriental adventurers and compelling narratives of an impossible Jewish Alaska, Micheal Chabon writes an urban novel about the death of the twentieth century. The book compensate its somewhat sombre theme with an exuberant style that shows Chabon at his best: when people in this book get up and have a glass of water, old Michael tells it through three metaphors, a simile, and a reference to obscure B-movies of the 70s.The book features the least lovable MC in the whole of Chabon's productions, and it's not like his other MCs are exactly Captain America; that might be sort of a turn-off at first. It's still Chabon, and he's still quite the best.