This post is the wrap-up post in the Telegraph Avenue pre-publication readalong hosted by As the Crowe Flies (and Reads). For my thoughts on the earlier parts of the book, see my response to Part I, Part II and Parts III and IV. For others' thoughts on Part V, check out As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) main readalong post for this week.
Spoilers Go Leor! If you haven't read the book, I'd recommend stopping here. No, really.
And a second sigh of relief, to see Archy step up to the plate. To make decisions about his life, and about his children's lives, and about his wife. To own up and be the man he always could have been, but could not have become under the shadow of his own father. Finally, Archy has moved beyond the world of flings and moving blankets, "symbolizing nomadism, impermanence, the need to coat [himself] against the damage of transit." After all, he is no longer transitional. He has staked his claim, and--at least to our eyes--intends to make good on it.
When I wrote about Parts IV, I wrote that I felt it was a chapter of growth; a chapter in which each character really became his or her true self. If that is the case (and not all readalongers agreed), then Part V is a chapter of redemption. Here, we see the stuck-in-the-throat apologies make their way into the real world; Gwen apologizes, Archy apologizes, and even Nat, in his own way, apologizes. Titus moves past Julie, but they both recognize each other and admit a kind of sorrow over the end of their friendship.
Finally, each of these characters seems to be able to move past what they want to see in the others; Chabon writes that Archy had been unable "to see the real Luther, only the Luther required by his anger", but in a way, I think that is true of everyone here. Nat sees Aviva in a different light, Titus and Julie's relationship changes, Gwen takes Archy back under different circumstances than when she left him in the first place.
"A person tended to see herself as a streetlamp on a misty night, at the center of a sphere of radiance, but that was a trick of the light, an illusion of centrality in a general fog." I love this line, for so many various reasons, and I feel that the only way any of these characters can truly find it in themselves to apologize--and perhaps more importantly, to forgive--is to abandon this particular worldview, opting instead to see themselves as one part of a giant web of interconnected characters.
That is the world Chabon has drawn--a world of interconnected characters fixated on a central place in time and geography--and that is the world his characters must embrace. Isn't that what he's getting at at the very end, when Archy goes by to visit the new card store occupying the once-barber-shop, once-Brokeland records location on Telegraph Avenue? Everything is connected; and just as Archy and Titus and the baby form a trio of generations, in a way, so too do places build on one another:
"The merchandise was not the thing, and neither, for that matter, was the nostalgia. It was all about the neighborhood, that space where common sorrow could be drowned in common passion as the talk grew ever more scholarly and wild... See how they put the world together, next time around."
On Reading Along... Before Publication
I haven't participated in a lot of readalongs (I tend to balk at reading schedules), but I really enjoyed the forced schedule of this particular book, and making myself take a step back between each part to savor what had happened and occurred and to review my underlines and dogears and circled words (I circle new vocabulary when I read, and there was a lot of it here!). I even liked reading along before publication--it was great to see other readalongers' reactions, despite the initial uncertainty about how to proceed with spoilers in each section. And I have to admit, if I hadn't committed to reading the whole book, I might well have put this one down after Part I. Now that I finished it, I can just say that I'm incredibly glad I read on.
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