This review is slightly old (originally written in October 2012) but is unpublished.
How does one review a Pulitzer-prize winning author? Do you compare his newest novel against his Nobel achievement, or do separate each individual item. The analysis of this question is perhaps why it took me so long to write a review for Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue”. This was also the first Chabon work I had read.
Chabon has stated that Telegraph Avenue is his most “mainstream” book. Yet, there is enough content for three novels. Chabon deals with blaxploitation, vinyl jazz records, a dying record store, a wandering parrot, a homosexual teenager and midwifery. Not bad for a white guy from the burbs. (Telegraph Avenue to be specific).
Telegraph Avenue reads like a hipster version of a Tom Robbins novel. Part 3 is 12 pages long and is comprised of a single sentence – about the journey of the aforementioned parrot after the death of his master – Robbins would be impressed. Yet in amongst all the coolness and suave football players, the plot gets lost and a bit muddled. Chabon’s writing is so dense that it gets difficult to follow all the characters; they are numerous and each of them gets their own point of view at least once. (One such character is Presidential candidate Barack Obama – the storyline takes place in 2004).
If I had to sum up what Chabon’s story is about in one word: family. Although there are oodles of interweaving plot lines, the one element they all have in common is familial relationships. Father-son, husband-wife, long-lost son, deadbeat dad; all the stereotypes all present and accounted for. Overall, an enjoyable read – though the book really only picks up in the last third or so, the first 300 odd pages are a little slow