Sunday, December 23, 2012

Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

The time: summer, 2004. The Place: Northern California, in the adjoining communities of Berkeley and Oakland. In this distinctive setting, Michael Chabon once again summons his incredible gifts for electric prose and sympathetic characters to weave together an immensely entertaining and moving tale.

At the heart of Telegraph Avenue is Brokeland Records, a beloved used vinyl shop in danger of getting wiped out by an incoming big-box superstore. Its co-owners, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe (a black man and a white Jewish man, respectively), are forced to face this fresh threat along with the pains and regrets of their shortcomings as husbands, fathers, and sons. In the meantime, their wives Gwen and Aviva, themselves partners in their midwifery business, handle their own challenges and frustrations.

Fragile yet crucial stakes bound to faded hopes and broken promises are stubbornly fought for and held onto throughout a deliciously concocted ode to music, cinephilia, American race relations from the 1970s to the present, nerd culture, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Lee, teenage longing, and nostalgia. Brimming with genuine emotion, humor, and sincerity, Telegraph Avenue is one beautifully rewarding book—as one can safely expect from Chabon, who has never been anything less than generous to his readers.

- Marc Saint-Cyr

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