You know a book is good when you're sad that it's over and you have to say goodbye to the characters. Of course, much of Telegraph Avenue is about nostalgia and an obsession with the past, especially among men who carry an adolescent streak well into middle age. But it's also about fathers and sons, and how our relationships with our parents can determine how we react when our own children come along--unless we make a conscious decision to change.
I love Chabon's writing style, particularly his ability to sum up a person or situation in one funny sentence: "Archy wondered if Valletta might not be high, cashed out on something that was making her go all Pynchonesque." Or: "Recently and unexpectedly, the fiber-optic cable between the continents of Father and Son had been severed by the barb of some mysterious dragging anchor."
But best of all are the parallel misadventures of the two main pairs of male friends in the book: the adults, Archy and Nat, and their sons, Titus and Julius (a.k.a., Julie). One paragraph in particular sums up the struggles of both groups: "They were little more than boys, and yet while they differed in race, in temperament, and in their understanding of love, they were united in this: The remnant of their boyhood was a ballast they wished to cut away. And still boyhood operated on their minds, retaining all its former power to confound wishes with plans."
And that's the central theme of Telegraph Avenue, which is the characters' internal struggle to decide what's more important: attempting to fulfill a boyhood dream or dealing with the reality in front of you. Reality wins out, of course, but not entirely; in Chabon's world, wherever there's a sense of community--or shared wishes--there's always the possibility of at least remembering the dream, if not reliving it.