Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Like Stephenson without the scifi
Maximalism is a term to describe literature that I hadn't heard until a couple of years ago and I have no idea why it didn't occur to me that it applied to Michael Chabon. While I haven't read Wonderboys I know that one character criticizes another for the fact that he was incapable of editing details out of his book - she accuses him of not making any choices.
Telegraph Avenue is actually only the second Chabon novel I've read, the first was a copy of The Yiddish Policeman's Union that I had picked up as a free book on a buy-two-get-one-free sale and actually now that I think about it the only reason I got Telegraph Avenue was because I found it at the 99 Cents Only store.
Good news: It's totally worth a dollar.
I really enjoyed reading the book it just seemed to drag a lot. I wasn't as interested Archy, the central figure of the novel, as I was in all of the characters surrounding him but I'm sure that was intentional. Archy is a lost man who doesn't know what to make of his life while the people around him are all very sure of what they want. His wife wants to make midwifery and intimacy with pregnancy more accessible to women of color than it is to her granola-infused customers; his father Luther wants very very badly to make a sequel to the film that was the centerpiece of his glory days; his business partner wants to sell records and keep a sense of community; his business competitor wants to create an empire. Archy is lost while being surrounded by people who know exactly what they want and that contrast serves to make ALL of the characters more interesting.
There's a lot going on on every page, and a lot of cool details, but it sometimes the writing felt like it was showing off for the sake of showing off. There's a whole chapter that is about ten pages long and all one sentence and it almost made me tear the pages out of the book. That's some Hawthorne bullshit right there and I will not stand for it.
But other than some ostentation and a drifting center the book is a fine read and, again, totally worth the dollar I paid for it.
Chabon, Michael. Telegraph Avenue. Harper. New York: New York. 2012.