Friday, 14 September 2012

Something for the weekend.. Telegraph Avenue

This weeks Something for the weekend is..

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon.

Michael Chabon's new one (out this week) is a lovely thing and I don't just mean to look at - that is a handsome cover though! (eyes left).
Telegraph Avenue is a terrific novel encompassing a dozen or so characters in & around the Berkeley/Oakland area in 2004. We are primarily concerned with Archy Stallings & Nat Jaffe, they run 'Brokeland Records' a 2nd hand vinyl shop specialising in Jazz, Soul & Funk. The existence of their beloved shop (& their friendship) is endangered by the possibility of a 'Dogpile' megastore opening up just round the corner. Alongside this central theme Chabon weaves the tales of the people affected by these two central characters, their Wives, their children, local politicians & Archy's wayward Father. The Father 'Luther Stallings' is a particular treat, a faded but still proud 70's Blaxploitation star now hawking round his idea for one final film staring his character 'Strutter' (a loving tribute to 'Shaft').
Though centred on a small community the book is broad in scope & ambition. The many plot strands involve class, race, murder, sexuality, first love & mortality. Never dull, Chabon is a master of mixing the deadly serious with the frivolous. There's barely a wasted word - he really is a superb writer. I found myself re-reading paragraphs & pages just to enjoy them again immediately. He's the kind of writer (similar to Jonathan Lethem) whose creations are so lifelike you forget they are fictional; I'm thinking of Strutter from this book & Barrett Rude JR from Lethem's 'Fortress of Solitude'.
Finally if you love your music (& not necessarily Jazz, Soul & Funk) you're going to devour this, Chabon's own passion for music seeps through every page.

Now I must read Kavalier & Clay as I'm often informed that is Chabon's best; better than this? I can't wait.


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