Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon

I have heard a lot of good things about Michael Chabon. It isn’t just that his works come highly recommended, but that damn near all of them do. It would seem that he merely turns out one excellent book after another. He is another one of those authors that, should you not be reading him, people will largely consider you culturally illiterate. And considering that the works he puts out are all pretty sizeable, the task can get to be pretty daunting. One must start somewhere, and when I was researching books to read for a class I was teaching, I picked up Telegraph Avenue and gave the first chapter a read.

There was no way I was going to use this book in one of my classes. But I kept reading it anyway. It’s all in the writing, and boy was Telegraph Avenue written well. De Gustibus, of course, as I read a lot of reviews that thought this book was a little too baroque for them. I like baroque. I try to write baroque. I do not do it anywhere near as well as Chabon does. That much was inescapably obvious. I also enjoyed watching the intricacies of the plot threads come together to form what was really a very interesting tapestry. Chabon has a pretty good sense of how to spin lots of different plates at once, and keep them spinning the whole time.

So does that make this a five star book?

Nope. There was a lot about this that I didn’t give a shit about. I was not truly invested in a lot of the characters. I do not think this was because there were too many of them, but that their stakes just were not all that interesting to me. I was not entirely sure what to think of the one-sided juvenile romance that this book features, and part of me was pretty curious as to why they didn’t just expunge it altogether. Above, I said the threads made an interesting tapestry, and I stand by that. Some of the threads, however, were uninteresting as all sin. The inclusion of Barack Obama as a character was something I could not figure out. It felt like there was meant to be more there and that I was just too square-brained to figure out what it was. I like Obama, and I am likely to remember him as the best president of my lifetime (for reasons perhaps merited, and perhaps not. I won’t get into my politics here), but for the life of me I still couldn’t figure out his piece in this puzzle.

I put this review off for nearly 6 months. Not because I wanted too, but because life got very hard for me. Despite a paragraph of moans, this book really was very good, and I think little speaks to that as much as the fact that it is still living rather vividly in my head six months after the reading.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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