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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.

Topics: Family, Race Relations, San Francisco Bay Area, 2000s, Jazz, Music, Marriage, Lyrical, Allusive, and Multiple Perspectives

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062124609
List price: $11.99
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Over written, with too many digressions and overboiled metaphors. Some scenes and characters likeable, but overall it's a tedious book.more
I think this is the best thing since Kavilier & Clay in the sense it is so true, so beautifully & imtimately human. Telegraph Ave is in a rundown and mostly Black part of Oakland which is home to Brokeland Records a used vinyl store in a store front that once was a barber shop. It continues to be a meeting place for neighborhood people. The story revolves around Arch, a born & bred native and Nat, an irrasible, ranting middle-aged Jew, and their family and friends. These people who have all these dreams that are, in middle age, seeing them unfulfilled and sensing the the American Dream has passed them by. Archy, in a eulogy for one of the regulars and held in the store, likens life to a caravan on the old Silk Road. It is a long, hard journey that takes a while, filled with bandits and sandstorms but "you are carrying the light of civilization back and forth but all around you, the tribes just want to keep their warring, and killing, and keeping track of what makes them better than everybody else." But you keep on "And every so often, every few hundred miles, maybe, you got these oases, right, these caravansaries, where they all get together and chill, hang out, listen to good music, swap wild tales of exaggeration. . . that was kind of our dream." And that is what Brokeland Records is, an oasis amid the wretchedness and the banality of life. Or is was. A big box store is coming in down the street that will nail that final and fateful nail in the coffin of their business, their lives and possibly the lifeof Telegraph Ave. Oh, does this strike so deep a chord in my being - the fact of a brief and beautiful oasis of an independent bookstore amid the banality and stupidity of life in general and seeing perhaps the last days of that safe calm oasis. They play the theme song of Cochise Jones, the dead man at the wake - It's Too Late and the people there realize "It's Too Late . . . It was about some large percentage of the aggregate wishes, plans, and ambitions espoused by the people gathered here today. . . The song was about the people gathered here. It was about Titus growing up with no father, and Aviva trying to hold on to her one and only baby, the the dream of Brokeland Records." I think that so many people today can read these lines like reading their own story or the stories of others - people that everyone knows now who have lost their jobs or seen their businesses squashed by some big entity "like flies to wanton schoolboys" (King Lear) But this novel is also about coping: about going on after your dream is gone. In the end it is very much a missive of hope. You fall in love with the story and with these amazingly drawn characters. These people will stay with you for a long long time but their stories are our stories, their dreams like ours, some, or many, fated to die because the times demand it. This book strikes a nerve deep within me that reverberates and plays the story of my life and that is the beauty and worth of literature - to reach out a hand to you and you alone and touch your life. That is the definition of deathless prose.more
Sept 6-12, 2012 I'm sorry to abandon you after 93 pages, but I just can't focus on your really vague yet very specific character descriptions or the fact that I'm really never sure if we've just switched to a new setting, a new time period, or a new POV. I'll try you again later...when I'm not getting married in a month.more
This book collapses under the weight of Chabon's overreaching metaphors. Not to mention its MOR - can't we all just get along - Hallmark movie of the week plot. Wait, did I just do what I just accused him of doing?more
Read all 36 reviews

Reviews

Over written, with too many digressions and overboiled metaphors. Some scenes and characters likeable, but overall it's a tedious book.more
I think this is the best thing since Kavilier & Clay in the sense it is so true, so beautifully & imtimately human. Telegraph Ave is in a rundown and mostly Black part of Oakland which is home to Brokeland Records a used vinyl store in a store front that once was a barber shop. It continues to be a meeting place for neighborhood people. The story revolves around Arch, a born & bred native and Nat, an irrasible, ranting middle-aged Jew, and their family and friends. These people who have all these dreams that are, in middle age, seeing them unfulfilled and sensing the the American Dream has passed them by. Archy, in a eulogy for one of the regulars and held in the store, likens life to a caravan on the old Silk Road. It is a long, hard journey that takes a while, filled with bandits and sandstorms but "you are carrying the light of civilization back and forth but all around you, the tribes just want to keep their warring, and killing, and keeping track of what makes them better than everybody else." But you keep on "And every so often, every few hundred miles, maybe, you got these oases, right, these caravansaries, where they all get together and chill, hang out, listen to good music, swap wild tales of exaggeration. . . that was kind of our dream." And that is what Brokeland Records is, an oasis amid the wretchedness and the banality of life. Or is was. A big box store is coming in down the street that will nail that final and fateful nail in the coffin of their business, their lives and possibly the lifeof Telegraph Ave. Oh, does this strike so deep a chord in my being - the fact of a brief and beautiful oasis of an independent bookstore amid the banality and stupidity of life in general and seeing perhaps the last days of that safe calm oasis. They play the theme song of Cochise Jones, the dead man at the wake - It's Too Late and the people there realize "It's Too Late . . . It was about some large percentage of the aggregate wishes, plans, and ambitions espoused by the people gathered here today. . . The song was about the people gathered here. It was about Titus growing up with no father, and Aviva trying to hold on to her one and only baby, the the dream of Brokeland Records." I think that so many people today can read these lines like reading their own story or the stories of others - people that everyone knows now who have lost their jobs or seen their businesses squashed by some big entity "like flies to wanton schoolboys" (King Lear) But this novel is also about coping: about going on after your dream is gone. In the end it is very much a missive of hope. You fall in love with the story and with these amazingly drawn characters. These people will stay with you for a long long time but their stories are our stories, their dreams like ours, some, or many, fated to die because the times demand it. This book strikes a nerve deep within me that reverberates and plays the story of my life and that is the beauty and worth of literature - to reach out a hand to you and you alone and touch your life. That is the definition of deathless prose.more
Sept 6-12, 2012 I'm sorry to abandon you after 93 pages, but I just can't focus on your really vague yet very specific character descriptions or the fact that I'm really never sure if we've just switched to a new setting, a new time period, or a new POV. I'll try you again later...when I'm not getting married in a month.more
This book collapses under the weight of Chabon's overreaching metaphors. Not to mention its MOR - can't we all just get along - Hallmark movie of the week plot. Wait, did I just do what I just accused him of doing?more
Frustrating. He writes beautifully, he had an excellent collection of original vivid characters and settings... but the whole thing just drags. I don't expect every book to be plot-driven at all, I have enjoyed many that were not, but they rewarded you with other kinds of deep thought or enthralling close observation, and this one just felt like dabbling--in story, in character, in the world. He didn't seem to care enough about any of it, ultimately, never went deep into anything, but I kept going with it because it seemed so obvious that with all his talents and heart he absolutely could. So much gorgeous meaty possibility that just ends up standing around.more
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