The New York Times bestseller following a big-hearted, exhilarating novel exploring the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland families.
“An immensely gifted writer and magical prose stylist.”
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
New York Times bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon has transported readers to wonderful places: to New York City during the Golden Age of comic books (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay); to an imaginary Jewish homeland in Sitka, Alaska (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union); to discover The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Now he takes us to Telegraph Avenue in a big-hearted and exhilarating novel that explores the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland, California families, one black and one white. In Telegraph Avenue, Chabon lovingly creates a world grounded in pop culture—Kung Fu, ’70s Blaxploitation films, vinyl LPs, jazz and soul music—and delivers a bravura epic of friendship, race, and secret histories.
As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and coregents 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 semilegendary 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 15-year-old Julius Jaffe’s life.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Got to love Chabon
Yet, another brilliant Chabon novel. Peppered with movie, music, and political references, including the appearance of a certain President, Chabon has captured American pop culture with moments of grace and beauty, all the while giving the readers a glimpse into the mind of genius. Way to go Chabon!.
The story great, the writing amazing. I found at times I had to reread sections because I got so caught up in the incredible writing that I was missing the plot. Which, to be clear, is a good thing.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was intelligently written, moving, and wonderfully witty. The characters - whether it be Nat and Archy, their spouses and children, their friends, or their nemeses - drew me into each of their stories. In spite of moral lapses and human imperfections, I liked these people! Somehow and someway, they all had something of substance to tell their audience.
I am a San Franciscan, born and raised. I have always felt a connection with that city across the Bay Bridge. Its real, and for me, even more so than those other cities across Our Other Great Bridge.
Hats off to a good read and its author!