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Telegraph Avenue: A Novel Hardcover – September 11, 2012
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“An amazingly rich, emotionally detailed story….[Chabon’s] people become so real to us, their problems so palpably netted in the author’s buoyant, expressionistic prose, that the novel gradually becomes a genuinely immersive experience - something increasingly rare in our ADD age.” (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times )
“Astounding....steamrolls the barrier that has kept the Great American Novel at odds with the country it’s supposed to reflect....[A] huge-hearted, funny, improbably hip book.” (Boston Globe )
“Chabon has made a career of routing big, ambitious projects through popular genres, with superlative results….The scale of Telegraph Avenue is no less ambitious….Much of the wit...inheres in Chabon’s astonishing prose. I don’t just mean the showy bits…I mean the offhand brilliance that happens everywhere.” (Jennifer Egan, New York Times Book Review (cover review) )
“Telegraph Avenue is so exuberant, it’s as if Michael Chabon has pulled joy from the air and squeezed it into the shape of words....His sentences spring, bounce, set off sparklers, even when dwelling in mundane details….Fantastic.” (Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times Book Review)
“Fresh, unpretentious, delectably written….For all his explorations into the contentious dynamics of family, race and community, Mr. Chabon’s first desire is simply to enchant with words. Eight novels in, he still uses language like someone amazed by a newly discovered superpower.” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal )
“Witty and compassionate and full of more linguistic derring-do than any other writer in American could carry off.” (Washington Post)
“A genuinely moving story about race and class, parenting and marriage…Chabon is inarguably one of the greatest prose stylists of all time, powering out sentences that are the equivalent of executing a triple back flip on a bucking bull while juggling chain saws and making love to three women.” (Esquire)
“Chabon’s hugely likable characters all face crises of existential magnitude, rendered in an Electra Glide flow of Zen sentences and zinging metaphors that make us wish the needle would never arrive at the final groove.” (Elle)
“A beautiful, prismatic maximalism of description and tone, a sly meditation on appropriation as the real engine of integration, and an excellent rationale for twelve-page sentences.” (GQ)
“A magnificently crafted, exuberantly alive, emotionally lustrous, and socially intricate saga....Bubbling with lovingly curated knowledge about everything from jazz to pregnancy…Chabon’s rhapsodically detailed, buoyantly plotted, warmly intimate cross-cultural tale of metamorphoses is electric with suspense, humor, and bebop dialogue….An embracing, radiant masterpiece.” (Booklist, starred review)
“’Virtuosity’ is the word most commonly associated with Chabon, and if Telegraph Avenue, the latest from Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, is at first glance less conceptual than its predecessors, the sentences are no less remarkable.” (Publishers Weekly )
“Expect its publication to be one of the bigger literary events of the year, akin to the release of The Marriage Plot this year or Freedom in 2010.” (The Atlantic )
“An end-of-an era epic....A Joyce-an remix with a hipper rhythm track.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) )
“An exhilarating, bighearted novel.” (O magazine )
“If any novelist can pack the entire American zeitgeist into 500 pages, it’s Chabon....Ambitious, densely written, sometimes very funny, and fabulously over the top, here’s a rare book that really could be the great American novel.” (Library Journal (starred review) )
From the Back Cover
As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.
When ex–NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.
An intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all its own, Telegraph Avenue is the great American novel we've been waiting for. Generous, imaginative, funny, moving, thrilling, humane, triumphant, it is Michael Chabon's most dazzling book yet.
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Top Customer Reviews
But would I recommend this book to others? That depends. Does the mention of Wakanda or the blue area of the moon stir childhood memories within you? Have you whiled away hours watching blaxploitation films? Does the close proximity of the words "Mirror, Mirror" and "goatee" make you instantly think of Star Trek?
If you answered no to those questions, then, no, I don't recommend the book to you. Like many of the 1 and 2 star reviews on this site, you will not like this book for those very reasons. This book makes references, lots of references, to very specific corners of pop culture. If you get them, you'll likely love this book.
As someone who does love this book, I still have some problems. At a certain point, I just had to accept that this was a world in which everyone, male, female, black, white, old, young, straight, gay, somehow magically collected the same pop cultural touchstones and felt free to reference them ad nauseam. Sometimes it's clever, sometimes it's written beautifully, but at many points it simply doesn't ring true. I find it had to believe that a current teenager would know that Black Panther is from Wakanda, and that the blue area of the moon is where the Inhumans lived (or rather, did in the 80s and 90s), because that's the only spot on the moon that has oxygen. And the Watcher, but he's okay with having neighbors as long as they leave him alone.
See there? I just confused almost everyone reading this review. Now you know how the book will make you feel. If you're okay with that, or you actually understood what I was talking about, then by all means buy it. I think you'll enjoy it.
What’s most disappointing is the trite meaning of the story boils down to: put away childish things. Those childish things being a record store, New Age birthing business, and long-gestating sequel to a blaxploitation movie. In the former two cases it’s because a couple has a baby so obviously now they have to buckle down and get “real” jobs selling real estate and nursing respectively. It’s probably a good thing Chabon never listened to this advice or he’d have given up writing to sell real estate before he ever won a Pulitzer Prize or cashed in with Hollywood.
What becomes mildly offensive is when you consider most of the characters in this are black, living in the eponymous down-on-its-heels neighborhood in Oakland while the author is a rich, middle-aged white guy. I’m sure the author considers himself a liberal and yet he’s really no better than the white doctor who tells Gwen to stop chemically treating her hair and quit practicing “voodoo.”
I’m sure most people won’t see it that way. They’re welcome to feel otherwise if they want. A lot of such people probably never gave it much serious thought and were just hypnotized by the writing, which as always is admirable. The only complaint I make there is that it’s really not necessary to say what each character is wearing every time they change clothes.
As with the wardrobe changes there’s a lot of ballast that’s not needed. “The Nostalgia Man” is chronicled at length but his only contribution is allowing Luther to get an audience with Mr. Goode. “The Bling King” does even less. The gay stuff between Julius and Titus serves no purpose except to continue the author’s streak of having one gay character per adult novel. If Julius were straight it would have contributed just as little to the plot since his main contribution was as a messenger.
It’s the sort of story that could have been pared almost in half and still retained the same overall message, as depressing and somewhat offensive as it is. A message that when you think about it isn’t even very original. Consider the 2007 film Knocked Up starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl where once the baby is born Rogen has to give up on his website dream to take a “real” job as an office drone. When you’re using the same premise as a Judd Apatow movie maybe your book isn’t as “literary” as critics would like to think.
That is all.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I Will NEVER buy a book from this nut job (Shabon) so called author :-((