Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon is a literary fiction book in which the author jams so much in it’s a wonder the novel is not twice the size. Mr. Chabon is a Pulitzer prize winning author for his 2001 book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Nat Jaffe and Archy Stallings are the owners of Brokeland Records, one of the few bastions of vinyl record stores left in Oakland, California, circa 2004. In comes Gibson Goode, ex-NFL star, multi-millionaire and entrepreneur who wants to open his Dogpile megastore in the area. The megastore will force Brokeland Records, who are struggling as it is, to close.
Nat’s wife, Aviva, and Archy’s wife, Gwen, are having their own struggles–they are midwives who have delivered thousands of babies until one delivery goes wrong and quickly turns ugly.
Telegraph Avenue is a strange book. If Quentin Tarantino wrote a book I’d imagined it would be something like this--better yet, if you had to read a Quentin Tarantino movie, it would be exactly like this. It's a schizophrenic experience which will leave you dazed and somewhat confused until things will clear up a few pages down--only for the cycle to be repeated again and again.
The strangeness doesn’t come from the story, which is quite simple, but from the artful storytelling. There are many pop-culture references (including many to Tarantino himself), music, books, movies, TV shows, and some made-up references which only exist within the realm of the book.
While I do enjoy pop-culture references in my reading, the sheer amount made the book difficult to read, albeit enjoyable in its own unique way. I’m usually pretty good about estimating how long a book would take me to read, but this one took twice as long and could have easily been more than that.