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Telegraph Avenue

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  20,813 ratings  ·  3,225 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 tha ...more
Hardcover, 465 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by HarperCollins
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Kevin Ashby I've read most of Chabon's novels and this has to be the only one that I have not enjoyed. Dull and dreary, utterly without any of the joy of his othe…moreI've read most of Chabon's novels and this has to be the only one that I have not enjoyed. Dull and dreary, utterly without any of the joy of his other works. I was so happy to see he returned to top form with Moonglow. (less)

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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  20,813 ratings  ·  3,225 reviews

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John Luiz
Oct 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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 Uly ...more
Violet wells
Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
I came very close to abandoning this about a third of the way in. I was finding it fanatically overblown and overwritten. Every other sentence Chabon was indulging in over exuberant similes. My patience almost reached its limit when he wrote an entire section without punctuation. There was a time when lots of writers were doing this, as if it was some kind of masonic rite of passage among novelists. I've never understood its attraction. For starters, it isn't a difficult accomplishment. I could ...more
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, modern-lit
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
Jan Rice
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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 Union;
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
“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.”
― Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue


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
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 Kavalier and Clay.” 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,
An epic novel about friendships, community, marriages, family and love. This is the first book I've read of Chabon's. I plan to read more. He is gifted and hilarious. Although the book cover makes it seem that it's a novel about friends whose businesses are undergoing duress, I think it's a loving saga about community, love, friendships and compassion. It's full of flawed people just trying to make it; and a few flawed people who are just, well, flawed. It's a book that you want to reread paragr ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye

Brokeland Records

The front cover of my copy of this novel suggests that it might be the equivalent of a five-track E.P. (and there are indeed five lengthy chapters), but it is in fact more like a double album concept album.

My preconception was that it was a music novel, perhaps concerning a band, but it is, instead, set in and around a second-hand record store called Brokeland Records. Although two of the characters (the joint owners of the record store) have also played in a band toget
Jacob Overmark
Main characters; Archy Stallings (black) and Nat Jaffe (Jewish). Gwen Shanks (pregnant) and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, both mid-(and)wifes.
Other characters:
Luther Stallings (drug addict, small scale criminal, formerly movie star)
Valetta More (Luther´s sometime girlfriend, porn star quality)
The Undertaker and his family of gangsters …
The ex-NFL star Gibson Goode, now a ruthless entrepreneur under the pretext of local development.
The 100-year old Chinese Kungfu mistress.
Customers at the Broke(!)land Recor
Julie Ehlers
Late last year I saw Michael Chabon give a reading from Moonglow at the public library in my city, and he was excellent—extremely gracious and funny (also very handsome. He smiled right at me once and I was dazzled). I left that night wanting nothing more than to be reading one of his books, and since my copy of Moonglow was still en route to me from Powell's, I decided it was an ideal time to tackle the nearly 500-page Telegraph Avenue instead. Of course my recent encounter with Chabon was a po ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copy, fiction, 2012
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
Super Amanda
Jul 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Chabon is an incredibly talented guy. He strikes a perfect balance of geeky and erudition that makes him an absolute pleasure to read, and while I enjoyed “Telegraph Avenue” a little less than “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”, it was still an amazing and nuanced novel, though it feels like a challenge to review and summarize.

I found myself thinking a lot about 18th century novel structure reading this one: just like “Middlemarch”, this book is more of a kaleidoscopic view of a
Gary  the Bookworm
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it

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 strug
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
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 right ...more
Jan 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
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. ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: california
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
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 their o
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
Marty Selnick
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Colin Barrett
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I could detect the alluring smell of Flint's Ribs wafting up from this book that captures the atmosphere of Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, where I lived in the early 1980's, my early twenties. Junior Wells and buddy Guy playing at the Omni, local blues at Eli's Milie High club. Oakland is still a happening place to be, still in mid-flourish while S.F. is getting so expensive its culture is threatened.

Chabon captures small moments with tender clarity. His characters are diverse in type and in temp
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Prior to Telegraph Avenue, The only Chabon I read was The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which could be considered one of my top twenty books of all time. Because of this I have been hesitant in reading another Chabon for fear of being disappointed.

Then Telegraph Avenue popped into my reader and it touched upon music and record stores so I bought it.

At first I was quite surprised that the style is close to Pynchon and David Foster Wallace i.e. complex sentences. wacky names, interconnecting p
Kasa Cotugno
Addendum from 2020 -- this neighborhood has changed significantly in the past 8 years, gaining a new identity as epicenter for hipsters. Thus, the book Telegraph Avenue can be regarded as a work of historical fiction even if the requisite 50 years have not passed.

For the record, I am a resident of Temescal, have lived for the past 17 years on the Oakland side of the Brokeland Divide. At a recent appearance, Chabon said he was writing for his neighborhood, including Oakland although he lives on t
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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 made in ...more

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Humming with jazz and soul, an indie used-vinyl record store faces its fate in Telegraph Avenue, the latest novel from the Pulitzer winner and...
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“Walter broke off a piece of a smile and tucked it into his left cheek as if reserving it for future use.” 14 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.” 13 likes
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