31 July 2012
Telegraph Avenue; Michael Chabon
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Like Julian Barnes, Michael Chabon tends not to stick with one genre. Here he's deep into the world of used vinyl records and blaxploitation films.
There are a number of characters we're following: Archy, the son of Luther, co-owner of Brokeland Records, married to Gwen and about to be a father; Nat, co-owner of Brokeland, married to Aviva and father to Julius; Gwen, Archy's wife, midwifery partner with Aviva and heavily pregnant; Aviva, mother to Julius, wife to Nat and Gwen's midwifery partner; Julius, aka Julie, gay son of Nat and Aviva, very into cinema; Titus, just arrived in Oakland and the 14-year-old son of Archy (who knew of his existence but was never a father to him); and Luther, Archy's father and former star of the Strutter films, classics of the blaxploitation era. Their intertwined lives start to pull apart thanks to Gwen's pregnancy hormones, Luther's attempt to blackmail the local Councilman over a very old misdeed, and to former Oakland football player George Goode (aka G Bad) and his plans to build a Dogpile Thang (a megastore) near Brokeland Records.
The language is a little raw at times, as are the emotions. Like High Fidelity there's a lot about music, with rare tracks mentioned in the same paragraph as Peabo Bryson. Archy's feelings about his father are echoed by Titus' feelings about him, never completely resolved. The ending is a little ambiguous but hopeful, something that felt a little odd for such a sprawling novel.
ARC provided by publisher.