A Bird of Wide Experience is the shortest section of this book and it gives us a literal birds eye view of the characters living on Telegraph Avenue. Fifty Eight, the beloved parrot of Mr. Cochise Jones, flies overhead in his search for a good place to land. This section didn't do a lot for me, mostly because it was an eleven page sentence. I didn't feel like it added too much to the story and, for me, it seemed to break up the rhythm that Chabon has established throughout the rest of the book.
After reading section 3, I realized that Chabon writes some really long sentences. This is by far the longest, but he will often spend a whole paragraph with just one sentence. Most of the time, this works well. On occasion, I found myself getting lost in a sentence though and having to backtrack to figure out what we were originally talking about.
Section four, Return to Forever, is back to normal with a lot of plot for the reader to take in. At this point in the story, I don't want to reveal a lot of the story. It sort of takes away the impetus for you to read it if I tell you everything, doesn't it? This section centers around the funeral of Mr. Jones - the preparations for the service, the beginning of the grieving process, and the actual service.
I thought that this section built nicely upon the ideas of family and generations that were explored earlier. In the pages we read this week, I felt that Chabon was illustrating that family is a choice. We are seeing the bonds that characters have with the family that is theirs by blood and the bonds they have with family they choose. In each of these circumstances, they have to choose to maintain the relationship - to get to know the grandfather they never expected to find, to reconsider the philandering husband, to think about going down in flames with your best friend because it's the right things to do. I'm really struck by the ways so many of these characters are relating to each other in moments big and small that they are there for each other, despite all of the tough times they are going through.
The interplay of race continues to be a huge them throughout this book. In earlier sections, I think some of us felt that Chabon was taking the easy way out, making obvious choices. But as the book goes on, I am finding that our author is actually very careful in the way he portrays race and the way people of different races interact with each other. Some things seem obvious, even painfully so. But we have to remember that sometimes these things are so imprinted in our consciousness because they have some truth to them. Then Chabon turns around and pulls an unexpected punch, like having Julius acknowledge that he is awful because he is about to assume that the man in a turban is a taxi driver. As readers, we are so focused on black and white that we don't consider how they relate to people of other backgrounds!
Throughout the book, Chabon has bookended the sections with images of Julie and Titus. The travels of these two boys, one white and one black, are some of the most lyrical phrases in the whole book. Take this one, for example:
"A last morning flag of summer, blue banded with gold and peach, unfurled slowly over the streets as the two wanderers, denizens of the hidden world known to rogues, gamblers, and swordsmen as "the Water Margin," made their way along the Street of Blake toward the ancestral stronghold of the Jew-Tang Clan, its gables armored in cedar shakes faded to the color of dry August hills. Armed merely with subtle weapons of loneliness, they left behind them, like a trail of dead, the disappointment of their tenure at the School of the Turtle. They were little more than boys, and yet while they differed in race, in temperament, and in their understanding of love, they were united in this: The remnant of their boyhood was a ballast they wishes to cut away. And still boyhood operated on their minds, retaining all its former power to confound wishes with plans."
I think most of us have a guess about the way this book will end. We all expect a happy ending, don't we? I rather suspect, though, that this author will have a few tricks up his sleeve for us in the final section of this book. Make sure to check back next week to find my thoughts on the last section of this book!
I wish I were as convinced as you that this book will have a happy ending. More than that, though, what I crave is a satisfying ending, and those are fewer and farther between than happy ones, I think.ReplyDelete
I think you selected a lovely passage to excerpt here.
Hmm.. that is an important distinction. I'm glad you brought that up.Delete
I have to admit the 12-page sentence just about did me in for this book. I couldn't find any good reason to justify it, other than he could do it, and that's not in service to the story, as you noted.ReplyDelete
It was very strange. The language was beautiful, of course, but it did appear to be a bit of ostentatious styling for its own sake.Delete
I'm reserving judgment on that single sentence chapter, but both of your opinions, Lindsey and Amy, echo mine in part.ReplyDelete
We're all so attracted to Titus and Julie. I've been wondering whether that's -in part - because they represent the next generation of race relations in the US? They acknowledge that race plays a role in their relationship -how can it not in this setting? - and address race-related issues when they emerge, but somehow they do so with relative ease. Still a question for me, not a definitive pronouncement. I'm hoping that Chabon will focus on the two of them in the final chapter as they're still my favorite characters.
It's interesting how everyone is sort of in pairs in this novel, and not necessarily in the way you would expect. I think you can pair Archy with Nat, Aviva with Gwen, Titus and Julie, and even, to some extent, Luther Stallings with Flowers.Delete
That's an interesting question about Julie and Titus, though. I wonder how their peers react to their friendship or relationship though. We haven't really seen them interact with anyone else their own age.
Someone mentioned in a comment on another post (and now I can't find it) that the book had originally been conceived as a screenplay - which definitely puts the extended, rambling, birds-eye-view bit into perspective a bit. But then again, I actually loved that chapter/part/sentence, so no complaints from me there!ReplyDelete
It might have been me! I think I mentioned that in the comments of someone else's post.Delete
It's so interesting to see that everyone either loves or hates that section - there is no middle ground.
I do believe there are going to be a few surprises. Nice review.ReplyDelete
Thanks! I have actually finished the book now, and find myself more underwhelmed than surprised...I think I have to sit with my thoughts for a few days. I look forward to seeing what everyone else thinks.Delete
If it's anything like Kavalier & Clay or even Wonder Boys - the characters will find some sort of happy ending that comes at a bit of a cost. Like life, sometimes, I suppose.ReplyDelete
I found this ending disappointing. I still feel unresolved, like something more needs to happen.Delete
I'm hoping to finish today. I don't want to be disappointed, but I'm already prepared for it.Delete
I think I'm going to make a Pandora playlist using some of the music mentioned in Part One. Because I actually think it would really help!ReplyDelete
Irene (Eureka Joe's)