Sarah's Reviews > Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
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's review
Apr 29, 13

Read from March 04 to April 02, 2013

Here's the thing: I consider myself to be a Chabon fan, even though I've only read two of his novels and only truly adored one of them. I was thrilled last year when I discovered he had a new book coming out. It took forever for my hold to come in at the library and, when it finally did, I was, of course, in the middle of another book. My boyfriend is also a Chabon fan (having actually read the majority of his work), so I handed this to him to read before I took a crack at it. He struggled immensely with this one, making it about 300 pages in before giving up and handing the book over to me. I managed slightly less than half of it before having to return it to the library (another patron had it on hold). When I got it back, I still couldn't finish it before it was due, so I returned it, again. On my third check-out of this book, I finally finished it.

This was an almost painstakingly slow read for me, and definitely not my favorite Chabon novel. I admit, I struggled at times with The Yiddish Policeman's Union as well, but ultimately, I found that to be a truly brilliant book. I'm not sure I'd say the same of this one. My boyfriend had a difficult time with Chabon writing African-American characters and, additionally, he believed everyone in the book was black until right before he quit reading. I don't disagree with him - it shouldn't matter what color the characters are, but it does, as this book is, in one sense, very much about race relations. It's a bit confusing, then, to not have much definite indication that one of the main characters is white until late in the novel.

Additionally, setting this book in 2004 just seemed incredibly odd. I don't really get the reasoning behind it and it reads as if set in a much earlier time period - the 1970s, as a matter of fact. Now, I can't say with any authority that there aren't still people in San Francisco acting like they walked straight out of the disco and onto the streets, but it just doesn't seem all that believable to me.

Finally, this has, perhaps, the least interesting plot of any Chabon novel. Ostensibly, it's about much larger things than the relatively straightforward plot suggests - race relations, the fall of our economy, the big-boxing of our society, etc. - but it's all couched in a rather boring and convoluted story of a failing record store.

I sound much more negative in this review than I actually feel. There are still some striking moments in the book (it is Chabon, after all), but it is far from the best book in his canon and certainly not the one I'd recommend, even with my limited exposure to his ouevre.

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Reading Progress

04/29/2013 marked as: read

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