Michael Chabon - Telegraph Avenue (3 stars)

Michael Chabon - Telegraph Avenue

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon is back with his first novel in five years. In Telegraph Avenue, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are the broke but not yet beaten owners of Brokeland Records (‘the Church of Vinyl’), which is now under threat from ‘G-Bad’ Goode’s plans for a rival megastore.

The novel dissects Archy and Nat’s intertwined families and their discordant relationships, Chabon touching gracefully on issues of race and sexuality, and as the story unravels – permeated by 80s Kung Fu references and musical markers – memories and past misdeeds mingle with the present, and history repeats itself like a broken record. Ironically, the thickly thatched descriptions and digressions often lack rhythm, detracting from the drama or humour bubbling beneath the surface. Pared back, however, Chabon’s narrative is engaging and organic.

Ultimately, the characters are guarded and lack depth, the emphasis instead is on accumulating cultural details, the novel itself an archive of records and references. Undoubtedly, Telegraph Avenue has a flashy sleeve, but it feels disappointingly flimsy between the fingers.

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