Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Telegraph Avenue #3

This post covers section two, The Church of Vinyl. This readalong is sponsored by As The Crowe Flies (and Reads) and Harper Collins. If you would like to pre-order the book, please visit Odyssey Bookstore here.



People, I have started taking notes. Now I don't do this whilst reading. Instead, I stick random scraps of paper between pages with passages that I would like to revisit. But...I am trying to sound like an intelligent human being during this read-along and there is a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people to keep track of!


Part two seems to move faster than part one. While I still feel Chabon throws you into the narrative from page one, I think as readers we are used to the deep end by this point and it feels like progress is easier. We also have some idea of the characters now and their relations to each other (which is helped by a page of notes that probably look like chicken scratch to the rest of the world).


Although this novel is ostensibly about the way people of different races relate to each other, this section seemed to be heavily focusing on the idea of generations and legacy. In the beginning of this section, Archy spends time with Mr. Jones as he repairs his speaker. Mr. Jones is the closest thing that Archy has to a father figure and he tries to help him during a stressful time. "Mr. Jones sat there, confounded by grief, turning Archy's information this way and that, a paperweight, something small and heavy cut with a lot of facets. Wanting to say something to this fine and talented young man, something lasting and useful about sons, loss, and regrets." The theme of passing things down through family continues with Nat, who carefully makes the recipes his stepmother used to make in order to get Garnet Singletary, their landlord,  to support Nat's efforts to keep the new mega store out of their neighborhood. Nat recalls the way his stepmother cooked and worked around the kitchen as he acknowledges the powerful effect that food can have on people.


While this section has much to say about parents and children, there is also a lot in here about race relations. Nat and Archy are desperate to save their record store from being run off the street by the opening of Gibson Goode's mega record store, which will be a sign of the possibility of success for the poor black people who live on Telegraph Avenue. When Nat gathers people to protest the establishment of the Dogpile Thang (as the store will be called), they are a mostly ragtag group of white folks prepared to fight the opening of a store owned and operated by a successful black man. And...cue the racial tension. 


P.S. Did I misunderstand or did Mr. Chabon create a bit of revisionist history with our current president? 




So there is a lot happening in this section. I'm excited to see what happens in section three, A Bird of Wide Experience. Come back next Tuesday to find out what happens and make sure to visit the rest of the read-along participants here

19 comments:

  1. I'm not sure that it's a bit of revisionist history re: Obama. He very likely could have been campaigning in the Bay Area then...

    i *love* your observation that this section, while ostensibly about race, is really more about generations & legacy. you've put into cohesive words something that mind mind was only grasping at tangentionally and hadn't started to articulate.

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    1. I think he could have indeed campaigned there around that time.
      My question was related to the line "...so that the state senator, Obama of Illinois, could address his fellow guests, each of whom had contributed at least one thousand dollars to attend this event, an address in which he would attempt by measured words and a calm demeanor to reassure them (vainly and mistakenly, as it would turn out) that their candidate for the presidency of the United States would not go down to inglorious defeat in November..."
      So in Chabon's novel, does Obama NOT become the president?

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    2. For what it's worth, I was confused by that part too.

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    3. I'm glad! I thought I picked up on something really smart for a moment...haha.

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  2. Great observation about generations and legacy - love that.

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    1. Thank you. I think, in the midst of all of this racial strife, we are reminded that everyone is influenced by their families.

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  3. Thanks so much for dropping by and visiting me. You mentioned if it would be better to read Hemingway before reading The Paris Wife. I'm not sure, in a sense, because he was writing The Sun Also Rises during the period of The Paris Wife, it made me want to go and read The Sun Also Rises.

    WOW Telegraph Avenue looks really good!! I am adding it to my TBR list.
    I'm also your latest follower just based on this post!!!

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    1. Hooray! I always imagine I could be one of those people who read a novel and then read everything related to it. But in real life, I have trouble getting through a sequel much less a whole group of related books!

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  4. I agree - the book does seem to deal more with generations and legacy than it does race - though that is definitely represented as well. I kind of like the study of parents and children and family at large, through the different generations.

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    1. I think it becomes a unifying factor. Archy is black and looking for a father figure in Mr. Jones. Nat is white, but is remembering his black stepmother, not his father. Searching for parental guidance is something everyone goes through, regardless of race.

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  5. I agree that the second part gains momentum, and I've been pondering how beautifully Chabon has created an entire fictional world at this point in the novel. Can't wait for the next two sections!

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    1. I feel like he is one of the best authors at really researching things. While he sometimes bends or changes facts, it's the kind of stretching that required intent and knowledge of the subject and the time period.

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  6. The racial and socio-economic tensions in the book are really interesting. On the one hand it's black vs white, on the other it's mom-and-pop small business versus corporate america. it will be fascinating to see it play out.

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    1. It's especially interesting because Nat is a white man who has deep roots in the black community. It also is complicated because Goode is an inspirational figure. How can you argue against that sort of success and what it represents for the community?

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  7. I don't know that it's revisionist history. Chabon notes this is just after his speech at the DFL Convention--he was the keynote speaker in July 2004. So the timing would be right for him to be campaigning for Kerry.

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    1. Ok...I referenced the passage that confused me up at the top of the comments. But I see what you are saying now, that he would have been campaigning for Kerry. Thank you for clarifying!

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  8. I hadn't picked up on the theme of generations and legacy, but you're totally right.

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    1. Perhaps it's one of those instances where you pick up on different themes depending on what you are experiencing in your own life.

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