Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Telegraph Avenue Readalong: Dream of Cream
That's helpful to know, really, going into this book, as Telegraph Avenue functions as much as a character as it does a setting. And I love that in a book. Authors that can make places as important as people are awesome.
And yet this book and I have had some fits and starts. I read the first two pages (the dedication and the epigraph) and was all I LOVE YOU MICHAEL CHABON. If you're curious, this is the dedication:
To Ayelet, from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove.
And this is the epigraph:
Call me Ishmael. --Ishmael Reed, probably.
Then I read the next 20-or-so pages (ok, maybe more like 60) and was all I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING OR WHO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE.
And then I stopped thinking in all caps and thought, ok, you're a smart person, you can figure this out. And I did. And once I started reading in longer chunks (this is not a book to be read in 10-page incremements), it started coming together a bit more for me.
At this point, I'm at the end of Part I (right on time for the readalong, too, go me!), and I think I like it. I think. I'm not wildly in love with all of the characters, but I feel that that statement desperately requires a "...yet." at the end of it, and therefore am not too worried. I do love Gwen Shanks, the rockin' midwife with a fierce attitude, and Julie Jaffe, son of the white owner of the record shop. I'm still not sure I know who everyone is, or how all of the characters/names/nicknames fit together. For a book about race, I'm pretty consistently confused as to who is black and who is white--but maybe that's intentional. I'm definitely not sure I know what is taking place in 2004 and what is a flashback to the 70s--but again, I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
Like so many other parts of this book (the characters, the time period, the setting, the plot), my own reaction to the book so far confuses me. Part I of Telegraph Avenue netted out to a bit of a flop; at 124 pages long, it felt like a whole lotta set-up and very little payoff. But by the end of Part I, I was ready to dive right in to Part II... so that must be a good thing, in some way. I'll be posting about Part II next week, so we shall see.
If I've piqued your interest with my scatter-brained reaction to the first part of this book and you'd like to preorder a copy for yourself, you can do so at The Odyssey Bookshop or find it at an independent bookstore near you. If I've piqued your interest and you'd like some further opinions of this book, you can find other readalonger's reactions at As the Crow Flies.
Further reading for Part I:
5 Questions for Michael Chabon (via Audra at Unabridged Chick)
Telegraph Avenue on Wikipedia
Michael Chabon on his "hometown" in The Atlantic