Staff Pick: Telegraph Avenue

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 by shoshanalibrarian

Two partnerships (and one marriage) are put to the test in the summer of 2004 in Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon's latest opus.  Archy and Nat are the co-owners of Brokeland Records on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.  Their store, already struggling, is further imperiled by the threat of a big-box-style store owned by a popular athlete moving into their neighborhood.  Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, have their own midwifery practice that is in trouble after a very pregnant Gwen, having recently discovered Archy's infidelity, loses her cool at a pompous OB-GYN.  Further complications come in the form of 14-year-old Titus, Archy's son from a long-ago fling, and Archy's no-account father, former kung fu champion and blaxploitation star Luther Stallings.  Add to the mix Nat and Aviva's love-struck son Julie, the somewhat sinister mortician/city councilman Chan Flowers, and other colorful characters (even Barack Obama makes an appearance), and you get another fabulous novel by Bay Area resident Chabon. Black, white, gay, straight, male, female - Chabon imbues each character with such humanity that their struggles overcome labels to reflect universal truths.  No one is a true hero nor a true villain.  The city itself is so richly described and inhabited that it is a character unto itself.  Telegraph Avenue is literary fiction at its best (and I do mean literary - you might want to have a dictionary nearby for this one)! 

 

Tagged: Book Blog, chabon, michael, literary fiction, oakland

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