The immensely gifted writer and magical prose stylist Michael Chabon delivers another bravura epic—a big-hearted, exhilarating novel exploring the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland families.
This enhanced edition includes an original theme song, 10 stunning designs from the artist Stainboy, and a custom-made map of Telegraph Avenue, all commissioned by the author for the digital book. Also includes audio excerpts read by actor Clarke Peters (The Wire, Treme) and a video interview with the author.
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, a pair of 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.
Virtuosity" is the word most commonly associated with Chabon, and if Telegraph Avenue, the latest from the 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. Set during the Bush/Kerry election, in Chabon's home of Berkeley, Calif., it follows the flagging fortunes of Brokeland Records, a vintage record store on the titular block run by Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, currently threatened with closure by Pittsburgh Steeler's quarterback-turned-entrepreneur Gibson "G Bad" Goode's plans to "restore, at a stroke, the commercial heart of a black neighborhood" with one of his Dogpile "Thang" emporiums. The community mobilizes and confronts this challenge to the relative racial harmony enjoyed by the white Jaffe; his gay Tarantino-enthusiast son, Julie; and the African-American Archy, whose partner, Gwen Shanks, is not only pregnant but finds the midwife business she runs with Aviva, Jaffe's wife, in legal trouble following a botched delivery. Making matters worse is Stallings's father, Luther, a faded blaxploitation movie star with a Black Panther past, and the appearance of Titus, the son Archy didn't know he had. All the elements of a socially progressive contemporary novel are in place, but Chabon's preference for retro the reader is seldom a page away from a reference to Marvel comics, kung fu movies, or a coveted piece of '70s vinyl quickly wears out its welcome. Worse, Chabon's approach to race is surprisingly short on nuance and marred by a goofy cameo from a certain charismatic senator from Illinois. 15-city author tour.