Kim and I are reading Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue together this month, along with anyone else who wants to read it with us. Discussions are here at The 3 R’s Blog and on Twitter at #readchabon, although we haven’t actually discussed much there yet.
This week’s goal was to get through the first of the book’s five sections (through page 124), and I was pleased to make it there before the last minute on Sunday night. I was also pleased to notice Kim’s profession of love for a particular sentence, which she shared on Instagram:
Sentence composition is one of the reasons I’ve loved reading Michael Chabon since his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh; saying he has “a way with words” is completely inadequate. But since I’m so besotted with the way he writes–and if I haven’t gone on record before that he is my #1 Author Crush, consider it done now–sometimes it’s hard for me to look past the structure to consider the substance of what he’s writing.
|Berkeley: A People’s Bicentennial History of Telegraph Avenue (Photo credit: wallyg)|
Section I, “Dream of Cream” (a title that goes unexplained until after more than 100 pages) introduces the major characters and conflicts of the novel. Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are co-owners of Brokeland Records, a struggling used-records shop on a street connecting Oakland and Berkeley, California. The store’s struggles may be about to get tougher, as an entertainment superstore is poised to move into the neighborhood. Archy’s and Nat’s wives also work together, as midwives in Berkeley Birth Partners, and Nat’s son Julius has a new friend with an unexpected connection to Archy. The relationships between the families are certainly knotty, but I’m pretty sure we don’t know the full extent of that knottiness yet.
I hope we don’t know all of that yet, anyway; I’m enjoying getting to know these characters, but I don’t really feel like very much happened in this section. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because I’m happy to luxuriate in Chabon’s writing for as long as I can, taking time to get into the story. I’m loving the smart pop-culture references, which cover such a wide range–assorted musical genres, comics, classic science fiction, film theory, television–that even if you don’t get them all, your own particular form of nerdery will probably be represented. Granted, I enjoy smart pop-cultural references in most of my entertainment anyway, but I appreciate that they’re not just tossed in here; for the most part, I find them to be well-chosen, functional details that help flesh out scenes and characters.
Chabon has introduced a large secondary cast in addition to his main characters. I’m wondering which characters will be under-developed, and if any will get more attention than their role in the story really warrants. I’m curious to see where the plot goes, and not entirely certain that it will even matter. And at this stage, I’m appreciating the way that Chabon’s explorations into genre fiction during the last decade or so are coloring this return to more literary fiction.
I’m enjoying my reading experience with Telegraph Avenue so far and eager to talk about it. If you’re not doing #readchabon with us but you have read the novel, we’d love to have you join our conversation!
Here’s the rest of our #readchabon schedule:
April 22: Sections I and III (through page 250)
April 29: Section IV (through page 381)
May 7: Section V (through page 465)