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Telegraph Avenue

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  12,581 ratings  ·  2,531 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 465 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by HarperCollins (first published 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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John Luiz
Count me among those that found reading this book a chore. Chabon is obviously brilliant and talented but reading his work is a bit like being trapped in the corner at a party by a manic genius, who feeds you dozens of brilliant different ideas at once, but at such a speed and with so many different tangents along the way that's it difficult to take it all in. Here, to slow things down, you often have to read sentences a couple of times just to keep track of what the noun and verb were in betwee ...more
Nathan
This book drove me a little nuts. It's plot is overstuffed making the whole thing much too long. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if the language didn't irritate me so much. Chabon tries to be both hip and smart, while dealing with characters who seem to be lacking in both. I felt too often that I was reading an Elmore Leonard book written towards the Ivy League set. Elmore Leonard at least knows how to plot. The plot lacks punch and swiftness and I felt myself caring less and less as the book ...more
Chuck
Hey, check out my razzle-dazzle, dictionary-demanding, neverending prose that rolls off the page like marbles falling from a flatbed truck, grabbing you like a gardener's glove in a Venus flytrap, moaning like Robert Johnson on a late-night radio blues show, carousing like a Common Ornery Cokeheaded Ho Intransigently Seeking Excitement (that's C.O.C.H.I.S.E -- get it?), continuing on and on and on and on like my man Joyce's Molly Bloom without ever switching sentences 'cause I'm producing a Ulys ...more
Kemper
A bunch of quirky characters wear clothes from the ‘70s and use old technology like a portable 8-track player while dealing with each other’s personal tics? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was reading a Michael Chabon novel or a Wes Anderson screenplay for a while.

Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are co-owners of a vintage record store in Oakland, but the business is circling the drain. A former pro football player is about to finish them off by opening up a huge retail store featuring an extensive use
...more
Lizzy Boden
I wanted to like it. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my favorite books of all time, and I went into this one with excitement and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that only lasted about fifty pages. I shouldered through because I wanted to give Chabon the benefit of the doubt.

In the end, I think the novel could have been saved with some judicious editing. It should have been about a third shorter. Chabon lets his thoughts run away from him and while his many asides are beautifull
...more
Jan Rice
I was afraid I wouldn't like this book. My daughter gave it to me last year, I'd already been unable to finish one of the three books she gave me, and when I looked at some of the professional reviews, I interpreted them as ambiguous. So, the book sat and waited....

I've read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I liked it but it was a long time ago; at the time, I didn't have the hooks in my head to hang a lot of it on, so little memory of it lingers. I read The Yiddish Policemen's Uni
...more
Michael
What a delight to be treated to this life affirming story after sustaining a series of books by Chabon that did not live up to the pleasures of “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay.” He clearly loves all his characters in this tale, and I was quite satisfied how their challenges in his narrative led them to evolve toward their visions in some cases or successfully stumble past their misfortunes in others.

The story concerns the struggles of a black couple, Archy Stallings and Gwen Shanks,
...more
Jesse
Sentence to sentence, just great. There's some wonderful writing about babies, and about commerce and old stores and those parts of Telegraph where Berkeley and Oakland kind of wander into each other (lived not far from there for about 2 years in early 90s, at at about 61st just off Claremont). Not to mention birthing and midwifery and lotsa nerd-boy stuff. Which is the problem. As early as Werewolves in Their Youth, Chabon started working the whole SF/fanboy/former nerd angle into his fiction, ...more
Gary  the Bookworm


Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Telegraph Avenue is a major commercial thoroughfare in a minor California city. It is also the setting of Michael Chabon's brilliant slice in the life of Archie, the half-owner of a used record store, struggling with impending fatherhood, and Gwen, his wife, a fast-talking, hormonally-challenged midwife, who is determined to have her baby with him, or without him, and to salvage her career after an unfortunate encounter with a smug physician. Two of the many people who complicate their struggle
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Telegraph Avenue, a strip of mostly hanging-in-there shops and a funeral parlour in Oakland, California, is home to Brokeland Records, a rare and secondhand vinyl record shop run by old friends, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe. It's August 2004, Archy's wife Gwen, a midwife, is thirty-six weeks' pregnant, Nat's only child, Julius, is having a sexual relationship with his new friend, Titus, and the record shop is barely scraping by, partly dependent on the records bought by their long-standing cust ...more
Shovelmonkey1
I think this book should come with its own sound track and each time another artist/track/ song from eons ago is mentioned it should play gently, harmoniously and briefly as a back drop to the book. Why? Well, like ambience and stuff. I am sure this must be possible as an added extra on kindle by now, surely?

This is a tale of many characters the existence of whom hinges on a dated but much loved record store on the eponymous street.

Archy Stallings and business partner (muso bromance) Nat Jaffe
...more
Paul
Dec 17, 2012 Paul rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
About halfway through the novel, in the midst of a 12-page-long sentence which comprises the whole of Section III of V, Chabon uses the phrase "short story long," which pretty much sums it up. Let it be known that I am most definitely not a fan of Chabon (after reading Kavalier & Clay and then Maps and Legends), and only read this because I felt like I had to, as I live a block off of Telegraph. I gave it an honest chance, but ended up speeding through it pretty quick, because it bugged me r ...more
Super Amanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa
I was looking forward to revisiting my old town through Chabon's words, but not enough to finish the book. The first 12 pages weren't bad, but then more characters are introduced and I lost interest. The plot meanders. Skimming some of the reviews here only clinches it: For a 465-page book, I would rather read something else.
Caris
Aug 03, 2013 Caris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I reluctantly picked this book up off a table just over a year ago. I was at a conference and Chabon's was one of the few names I recognized. I considered the book before slipping it into my bag; it's a big motherfucker and would cost me precious space in my carry-on. Turns out, though, I wasn't really into books at that conference. The excitement of collecting them, searching out the gems from the heaps of hyped-up shit just held no appeal to me. So after going into the bag, Chabon stayed. Ther ...more
Gary
I saw the author in person last night....he read a section from this novel. Wow. I almost wanted to start over and read it again...he did an awesome job. The room was full. I took 9 of his books with me,and bought 3 more, for my son....he was very gracious and signed them all. What a nice guy,and what an author.

I will tell you that this book starts slow.....but stick with it.....he spends quite a bit of time setting it all up,and I will tell you it's worth it in the end. I love Kavalier and Clay
...more
Colin Barrett
A good novel digs a hole in you and fills it with its own loam, an invasive kudzu strangling some delicate, native species of scrub. A great novel works the other way around—its beautiful, beaming stamen bursts forth, normally only growing on the impossible cliffs of some tropical island and yet somehow here it is anyway, cutting through your mind's backyard bougainvillea to illuminate, elucidate, aspirate.

Telegraph Ave is, naturally, in the latter category. Its drama is of a familiar, familial
...more
Jessica
I'm a little ashamed to admit how little I enjoyed this book. I don't want to be all "Books are hard," but there are too many plot threads and characters that I can't keep straight and Chabon's never-ending sentences seems less like a demonstration of his control of the English language than a demonstration of his inability to control his rambling thoughts. I am a smart person, dammit! I have a Master's degree in English and everything! Why do I feel like such an asshole for not getting on board ...more
Stephanie Sun
Two stars is probably harsh for a book that attempts most of the things that I want Big Six front-list fiction to attempt (contemporary urban setting, large diverse cast, social commentary, and a focus on work and relationships) in my favorite voice (alternating close third-person).

However, Telegraph Avenue felt like a two-star book, from beginning to magical baby ending. It was just not a pleasant, entertaining, satisfying, or enlightening way to spend time.

It's not that I needed Chabon to be p
...more
Marty
How could I not love this book? For the past twenty years I have lived a half block off Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. With this book Michael Chabon makes my world a colorful and vital place to live (which it truly is). It is a perceptive portrayal of life in a 21st-century urban American neighborhood full of cultural misunderstandings and larger than life personalities. It is a moving story about class and race, parenting, marriage, and friendship written with warmth and humor and enthusiasm. Tel ...more
Susan Tunis
The Church of Vinyl

Depending on who you ask, Michael Chabon is either one of the finest writers of the English language working today or he is THE finest writer of the English language, full stop. My opinion vacillates between the two. A reputation like that comes with some pretty lofty expectations for each new book. I'm pleased to say that Chabon's latest, Telegraph Avenue, did not disappoint.

At the core of this novel is Brokeland Records, described at points as "the church of vinyl" and "an i
...more
Janet
So love digging into this contemporary, real world, adult Chabon. THIS is the Chabon I love, the book I'd been waiting for. Contemporary(ish) Oakland, two middle-aged guys with a gradually dying record store, two midwives in the real world, a universe where the "old days" keep coming back at you--lots of gorgeous, crap-Seventies overtones here--and man can he write. You laugh out loud just because the mots are so bon, the specificity of description so brilliantly exact, everything from the intri ...more
Nancy Oakes

I'm giving this novel 3.75 stars. I have this incredibly conflicted reaction to this book -- while I really loved the characters and could identify with many of the themes that the author explores (and because I actively collect old soul and R&B music), the overactive prose and writing style sometimes frustrated me. It can get windy (with a long i) and overly wordy, suffering sometimes from overactive and overstated prose. At the same time, that very writing is what created the amazing chara
...more
Darwin8u
I lived for several idyllic months during my virgin adulthood in Boulder, Colorado. There was a term often tossed around, at least then, that Boulder was 20 square miles surrounded by reality (I've since heard the same line used for Madison, Austin and Berkeley).

Like Boulder, the real Telegraph Avenue exists in an idealized borderland surrounded by reality that stretches 4.5 miles from downtown Oakland to U.C. Berkeley. On this street you find the restaurants, used clothing shops, street vendor
...more
Schmacko
Chabon has a gift for taking things that are mass market, pulp, and pop culture and spinning them into credible literary gold. I love him for this.

In Telegraph Avenue, he tackles old R&B and jazz vinyl, blacksploitation films, and Kung Fu thrillers. He also captures a corner of Berkley that Chabon and his wife have lived in for years. It’s all in the service of a story about fathers and son – how father succeed, how they fail, and how sons carve their own paths because of or in spite of the
...more
Book Him Danno
I thought I should start with my bias first, so you can understand where I am coming from.

A great novel should not be a chore to read.

The first 30% of this book crawled along introducing many characters with too little action. So I had the double problem of both trying to be engaged in the limited plot and trying to figure out who was who and why they were even present. The story did finally get moving as you got (way) into it, but it was work, not enjoyment. And then he hits you with part 3,
...more
Michael
When a book has as much pre-publication hype and praise as Telegraph Avenue has been getting, it's easy to get expectations of the "next great American" novel in your head. (It's probably not helped that the cover jacket conveys this same sentiment)

And while I liked much of what Telegraph Avenue did and I have a general affection for Michael Chabon as a writer, I still came away from the book feeling like it's not the sum of its parts. On the surface, half of the book feels like it's treading th
...more
Suzanne
Chabon is a master! He writes, "Grief is a kind of chair, wide and forgiving, that might enfold you softly in its wings and then devour you, keep you like a pocketful of change."
Telegraph Hill a jazz piece. He uses polyrhythms, simultaneous use of conflicting rhythms that are not readily perceived as deriving from on another. In other words, there are many story lines. Some of them are more engrossing and more necessary. Some of them are dischordant, and just flamboyance.
Every review I've read
...more
Lisa
I hadn't read Chabon since Mysteries of Pittsburgh despite all the hoopla, probably because I just wasn't attracted by their plotlines. But this one--two couples, one black and one white, friends and partners in a used record store (men) and a midwife practice (women) in gentrifying (or so it is rumored) Oakland of the 1980s, plus a free early galley, did. But...I dunno.... I admired his literary pyrotechnics and unbounded creativity in evoking the setting and atmosphere, and incantatory collage ...more
Karen
This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by HarperCollins/Goodreads. Thank you.

Very early in the book Chabon writes:

"Fathering imposed an obligation that was more than your money, your body, or your time, a presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal, and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars."

For me, the spindle of the book spun around those words as much as it did around an old turntable playing jazz funk from the 70s.

The story, set
...more
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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was mad ...more
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“The little boy had wandered away from his mother, tacking across the grass to the play structure. His mother watched him go, proud, tickled, unaware that every time they toddled away from you, they came back a little different, ten seconds older and nearer to the day when they left you for good. Pearl divers in training, staying under a few seconds longer every time.” 6 likes
“Fathering imposed an obligation that was more than your money, your body, or your time, a presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal, and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars.” 5 likes
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