Telegraph Avenue: Parts III and IV

This post is part of the Telegraph Avenue pre-publication readalong, hosted by As the Crowe Flies (and Reads). For more information about the book, the readalong, and to find others' thoughts on the reading so far, visit the As the Crow Flies (and Reads) main readalong post for this week.

Part III: A Bird of Wide Experience
Part III, whoa, one breathless, 11-page sentence, an all-encompassing sweep of a bird's wing, a bird's flight, a bird's journey, tying together every character whose name we can't remember into one grand gesture of farewell, or perhaps of hello, starting with the beautiful sentence, "If sorrow is the consequence of pattern spoiled then the bird was grieving," which begs the question--is sorrow really the consequence of pattern spoiled?

Part IV: Return to Forever (warning: this is all kinds of spoiler-y)
If Part I was all set-up, and Part II was the place where it all really began, and Part III was a one-sentence reminder of everything that was and everything that was bound to happen, the Part IV is where it all unfolds. Here, Archy and Titus finally-finally!-interact, moving past their "equally infinite silence, nothing between them at all but three feet of sofa" of Part III. And when they finally do interact? Really, nothing. Titus idolizes his father, yearns for his father--but in fact, they have nothing in common.

But at least Titus still has Julie, and they set off on their wild adventures of youth, "armed merely with subtle weapons of loneliness," leaving behind them, "like a trail of dead, the disappointment in their tenure at the School of Turtle." (Reminder: Archy's nickname is Turtle. This is important to remember, here.)

And Titus and Julie find Luther and Valletta, and find themselves on the cusp of even more disappointment, until Archy intercedes on no one in particular's behalf, and then Archy and Nat have it out, and Archy and Gwen have it out--or rather, Gwen puts Archy out--but in doing so, Gwen comes into her own...

It's a tangle to try to even begin to summarize, but to me, Part IV is a chapter of growth, in which we get the unique experience of watching these complex, amazing characters become their true selves. Here is Julie, recognizing his own sexuality. And Titus, messing with his. Here is Archy, casting himself off from normal life, forming a little island of a man in grieving, frozen between the present and the future and uncertain of how to move. And then there is Nat, coming to terms--or at least recognizing--his son's growth, while simultaneously watching his own life fall apart. And then, lordy lord, there is Gwen, the most bangin', kick-ass, fly woman a reader could ever hope to root for, and she. Is. Smokin'.

Part IV, I felt, is also where Telegraph Avenue really comes to life, expressed equally in Gwen's hatred of the area, of the who Bay Area in general, "with its irresolute and timid weather, the tendency of its skies in any season to bleed gray, the way it had arranged its hills and vista like a diva setting up chairs around her to ensure the admiration of visitors," as it is in Titus' discovery of the AT-AT land of truck storage, and Nat's desire to be the musical oasis in an area of destitution between one place and another.

So, to sum up: Everyone has grown up, plans have been laid--and now it is up to Part V to see it all through, to find out what happens as these characters tumble back down the steep side of plot structure and into what I can only hope is some kind of conclusion. (My not-so-secret fear is that Chabon will end the novel as abruptly as he started it, really). I feel like we are on the cusp of some great event, or perhaps just on the other side of it (the it then being Cochise's funeral), and I'm looking forward to what comes next.


Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing advance copies of this title for readalong participants.
Telegraph Avenue | Michael Chabon | Hardcover | 480 page | September 2012 | Pre-order from The Odyssey Bookshop or an independent near you


  1. This was a beautiful review of this section--very sensitively drawn.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I really enjoyed this section, but have to confess that I wrote this bit around 11PM the night before a 6AM flight, so it may not have been as cohesive as I'd wanted!

  2. Oh, I desperately hope that he doesn't end it as abruptly as he began! I am going to need closure.

  3. I agree - really well written and well thought out review. I'm not sure that I agree that this was a chapter of growth - it certainly seems to have brought all of the characters to a point where they'll be forced to grow. They're all on the cusp of something.

    1. I think that Titus and Julie and Gwen and Nat grow a lot in this section - Archy, though, I agree, is just moved to the cusp of his own growth.

    2. True. We see a lot of change in those characters this section. You're right. I'm curious what Gwen is like sans-hormones.


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