Michael Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue" is a fast-paced, fun tour of the troubled lives of several residents of Oakland and Berkeley, California. This novel displays Chabon's characteristic complex plotting. Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, owners of a used record store/neighborhood hangout called Brokeland, are concerned about the future of their business after learning that a well-funded chain will open a large music store nearby. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva, also work together as midwives. They face a crisis in their long-standing conflict with a hospital and the medical establishment in general.
As he has done in his previous books, Chabon gives readers a good feel for the place. His descriptions of the streets, people's clothing, even the smells, create a detailed picture. Chabon's tale touches on issues of race, economic development, loss of tradition, and community without ever feeling preachy.
Reading "Telegraph Avenue" is a bit like spending some time at the record store. You meet a lot of quirky and interesting people who make questionable choices. You hear conversation that offers insight into their experience. And all this gives you plenty to think about.
Michael Chabon will speak at Headquarters on September 18 at 7 p.m.
--Jennifer A., Headquarters