Chabon's extraordinary story of one turbulent weekend in the life of a struggling writer, a satire of the permanent adolescence of the creative class....
Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather". It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure....
For 60 years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the federal district of Sitka, a temporary safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust....
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague....
They're an odd pair, to be sure: pale, rail-thin, black-clad Zelikman, a moody, itinerant physician fond of jaunty headgear, and ex-soldier Amram....
Ethan Feld is having a terrible summer: His father has moved them to Clam Island, Washington, where Ethan has established himself as the least gifted baseball player the island has ever seen....
Teddy Telemachus is a charming con man with a gift for sleight of hand and some shady associates. In need of cash, he tricks his way into a classified government study....
It's 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson - college professor, stalled writer - has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn't seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family....
Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a class at a weeklong arts conference....
Anna Kerrigan, nearly 12 years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family....
Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born....
The first collection of short fiction from Pulitzer Prize-winner Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot....
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly....
From prize-winning, best-selling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom....
Two brown girls dream of being dancers - but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe....
The life of Urbain Martien - artist, soldier, survivor of World War I - lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story....
Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others....
A moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln....
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, between them, more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart - half tavern, half temple - stands Brokeland Records.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in the United States, 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.
Michael Chabon is an author whose reputation certainly precedes him, and I don't know how I've managed to go this long without digging in to his work. Certainly, there is a nagging concern that what you've heard or read is hype, and that the actual experience is going to be a letdown.
This is not the case here. Telegraph Avenue is everything I want in a novel and more. It's a deep and thoughful reflection on the relationships between blacks and whites, the intermeshing of cultures, of gentrification and urban renewal. It's a detailed and insightful memoir of a time and a place, populated with a rich tapestry of characters who are fully drawn and completely believable. There's a compelling story that spins an intricate web around you and makes you care about what happens; that involves you in a complex set of relationships between people and their community and the conflicts between their personal histories, their aspirations, their families, and their limitations. Local politics, social responsibility, Black Panthers, kung fu, environmentalism, aging blaxploitation stars, midwifery, the impossibility of being 14 years old -- it's all there.
And music. Telegraph Avenue pulses with music, both in the many references that become a soundtrack running in your head and in the detailed, lively descriptions of the incredible conflagration of funk, soul, R&B, rock and roll and jazz that bubbled up out of the American cultural melting pot beginning in the Sixties and continuing to this day. If you don't know what a CTI release was, go do some listening. It will add a layer of depth to the experience of this book that is priceless.
Chabon delivers extremely realistic dialog that includes plenty of street slang and Clarke Peters handles the narration of the audiobook with superb attention to the personalities and characterizations. He gives a believable and authentic voice to a wide cast of characters that includes everything from a 14 year old gay white kid to a nonagenarian Chinese woman, and delivers the narrative in a style that is deeply sensitive to cultural and political connotations. His wonderful voice becomes the music of this experience.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
I 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 have been waiting for his book to drop like my young son waits for his favorite balloon magician to go to start blowing and twisting. Last night at 1:00 am, I grabbed the novel, downloaded the audio, and hyper-caffeinated myself for an all night experience that only Chabon can deliver.
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 (Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Yiddish Policeman'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. Listening to "Telegraph Avenue" I am tempted to believe that even Chabon's farts must sometimes sing when he is walking in Berkeley.
I would be remiss if I didn't also note that Clarke Peters is THE perfect narrator for this novel. His voice is a mixture of $ex, J@ZZ, and stree+ prophet. I do hope this isn't the last book he does. He was one of the best actors in two of the very best shows on TV (the Wire and Treme). Clarke's voice owned this novel and for a night both Chabon and Clarke shared joint ownership of my Brokeland head.
71 of 76 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would recommend this book to all current and future fans of Michael Chabon.<br/><br/>With pitch-perfect narration by the talented Clarke Peters of The Wire and Treme, this book was so entertaining I listened to it twice, immediately. I became attached to the characters and their humorous and relatable foibles and didn't want the book to end. Michael Chabon's books are reliably great, and this one benefits from being told close-to-home by a Berkeley writer.<br/><br/>After a chapter or two, you feel like you feel at home in "Brokeland"--the border between bourgeoise Berkeley and poorer Oakland--with the gentrifiers and the old timers, 70s film stars, vinyl loving nostalgics, lawsuit-happy yuppies, and people trying to walk between these worlds.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Telegraph Avenue?
The uproariously drunken and messy funeral for the old-timer musician / commie / vinyl collector Mr. Jones was probably the zenith of this wild ride.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I laughed each time I listened.
Any additional comments?
I hope Clarke Peters records more books :)
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I'm a huge fan of audiobooks. I've probably listened to well over 200 titles, including some literary works. Having enjoyed other books by Michael Chabon, I started to listen to Telegraph Avenue with the highest expectations, but simply couldn't continue beyond a couple of hours. I'm notsure what the problem was, but I had to abandon the book early on. After a couple of months, I finally picked up the actual book and loved it. It is a brilliant novel, with themes of parents/sons; spouses, partners, race, etc. As some reviewers have noted, it recalls Joyce's Ulysses, at least superficially. It just doesn't work as an audiobook, despite the best efforts of the narrator. So, this is just one of those occasions when one is better advised to skip the audio and read the text. (Note, an article in the Times Sunday Book review from November 2013 also led with this book as a prime example of a title that didn't work in audio format.)
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
Michael Chabon has written, but I should say crafted, a novel that includes the areas of family, friendships, r & b music of the 70's, race relations, and the idea of neighborhood. The stories that he weaves through the novel are fascinating and the interactions of the characters will make this book a Pulitzer contender. I have read several novels by Chabon and this is truly special.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I have great respect for Michael Chabon's intellect, I have to stretch my mental muscles to keep up and that can take away from enjoying his storytelling. I was here in Berkeley, frequenting the renown Telegraph Ave before, during and after the time frame of this story and I was a bit surprised by how fictional he made the setting. It is a street with much personal history for many of us, and he could have drawn on more of the culture even though that seemed to be part of his agenda. Probably a desire for more local nostalgia I was hoping to find.
The reader's performance was smooth and although I couldn't always keep the characters separated, it was done very well.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Chabon is a master. It's clear that he is in full command of his craft and he has produced another work of incredible originality with a near perfect mixture of humor, anger, uncertainty, conflict, joy and loss. His deep understanding of the characters and the lives they live is truly astonishing. I find it hard to believe that one author could convey so much truth about music, infidelity, homosexuality, community politics, male friendships, kung-fu and 70's blacksploittion films; my mind is officially boggled. I truly enjoyed this book. From beginning to end. Why four stars instead of five? I'm not really certain, except to say that, when taken in context of his other works, Telegraph Avenue was not my favorite. Although it was up there. If I could give it four and three quarters stars I would.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I've read (not listened to) all of Chabon's novels and this one, while enjoyable, just seems like him in a minor key. Story takes a while to get started and once it does never seems to take off. (This is odd since there is a long set piece taking place in a dirigible with a night club attached.)
Also, the story, while amusing, just didn't seem to have the depth of his best ones. I got through it but just barely.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
What could Michael Chabon have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
I got this as an audio book to listen to for one of my book clubs. Listened to about one hour, but couldn't get into it. I loved "Cavalier and Clay" and have a passing familiarity with the city of Oakland, but this book just seemed too forced. All the name-dropping of "famous" jazz musicians and their celebrated albums, most of which I had never heard of, left me out in the cold. Maybe if snippets of their work had been playing in the background . . . but without any clues, I had no idea who most of them were. Add to that the fact that not a single female character had appeared in the first hour, which was also a bit alienating. One of the main characters is a has-been kung fu star of "B" (or possibly "C") movies, another reference that just didn't grab me. I don't mind being exposed to new ideas through books, in fact I usually welcome it, but I just wasn't compelled to go over to my computer and start googling the names of the other kung-fu stars that were mentioned. Decided the book was too long and summer too short, so hit the "off" button and moved on to the next book in my pile.
Which character – as performed by Clarke Peters – was your favorite?
I did think Clarke Peters was doing a good job of performing the book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I love Michael Chabon's writing, and Telegraph Avenue merely fueled my opinion. Clarke Peters's top-notch delivery probably helped, but I frequently wished I had a paper copy of the text handy so I could share a particularly gorgeous excerpt with a friend, a student, or simply save it to reread and marvel over. The story is a daring and original amalgam of coming of age/revery/adventure/American classic/marriage hand book. . . Wow. The chapters told from the point of view of the 14 year old boys in which the moms are the enemies in their role-playing-samurai games are hysterical; even many of Chabon's throw away lines are remarkable for their original but effective writing. My one quibble, as with Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is that Chabon's detailed descriptive eye falls on everything--and I don't really want/need to know the ins and outs (unfortunately, that is often literally true) of the characters' sexual activities. Personally, I am a believer in keeping certain parts of life private; practically, this kind of painstaking description makes it that much harder to use his novels in a high school classroom, which I'd love to do.
So: highly, highly recommended. Terrific reading and a terrific novel, but the subject matter can definitely veer into the R rated at times.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful