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“On the surface, Telegraph Avenue is the story of Archy and Nat -- longtime proprietors of Brokeland Records, a community staple in the variegated neighborhoods of Oakland, California -- who face an invasion of Walmart proportions. But intertwined with their struggle is an exploration of so much more: love, in all its forms; race; gentrification; modern medicine; blaxploitation films; vinyl records; and the absolute greatness of jazz and funk. I don't think there's a writer alive who can structure a sentence the way Chabon does, and he's given us yet another masterful, unsparing novel whose vivid characters will inhabit your heart long after the final page.”
— Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in therelongtime 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, a pair of semilegendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose hearthalf tavern, half templestands Brokeland.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of 15-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.
“An amazingly rich, emotionally detailed story….[Chabon’s] people become so real to us, their problems so palpably netted in the author’s buoyant, expressionistic prose, that the novel gradually becomes a genuinely immersive experience—something increasingly rare in our ADD age.”
-Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“Astounding....steamrolls the barrier that has kept the Great American Novel at odds with the country it’s supposed to reflect....[A] huge-hearted, funny, improbably hip book.”
-John Freeman, Boston Globe
“Chabon is an extraordinarily generous writer. He is generous to his characters, to his landscapes, to syntax, to words, to his readers—there is a real joy in his work….Both ambitious and lighthearted, the novel is a touching, gentle, comic meditation.”
-Cathleen Schine, New York Review of Books
“Forget Joycean or Bellovian or any other authorial allusion. Telegraph Avenue might best be described as Chabonesque. Exuberantly written, generously peopled, its sentences go off like a summer fireworks show, in strings of bursting metaphor.”
-Jess Walter, San Francisco Chronicle
“Chabon has made a career of routing big, ambitious projects through popular genres, with superlative results….The scale of Telegraph Avenue is no less ambitious….Much of the wit...inheres in Chabon’s astonishing prose. I don’t just mean the showy bits…I mean the offhand brilliance that happens everywhere.”
-Jennifer Egan, New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“The writing - stylized, humorous and often dazzling - is inflected with tones of jazz and funk. But it’s Chabon’s ear for the sounds of the human soul that make this book a masterpiece, as his vividly drawn characters learn to live at the intersection of disappointment and hope.”
-Robin Micheli, People (4 out of 4 stars)
“Telegraph Avenue is so exuberant, it’s as if Michael Chabon has pulled joy from the air and squeezed it into the shape of words....His sentences spring, bounce, set off sparklers, even when dwelling in mundane details….Fantastic.”
-Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Witty and compassionate and full of more linguistic derring-do than any other writer in American could carry off.”
-Ron Charles, Washington Post