Street Life   2 comments

While wondering at the necessity, I marvel at the kind of concentration and craftsmanship it takes to write a single sentence that makes sense and holds interest as it spans 12 pages rife with characters, each distinctly different, who share a common struggle against fate, karma, some elusive and nebulous hand manipulating a game board with varying designs and obstacles; yet this engaging contest in Michael Chabon’s most recent novel, Telegraph Avenue, is played with swagger and fear by men, women and teenage boys fighting to hold onto dreams while desperately needing to relinquish the realities of their colorful lives.

I lack the skill, and inclination, to take a 100+ word sentence any further. Chabon can, but that’s the least of his mastery. Set in Oakland, his story about two men who run a (old school vinyl) record store in danger of being razed to accommodate a mega urban renewal project is a tribute to friendship, music and, oddly, especially family.

The novel is drunk with sensory images. Consider: “At 9:45 a.m. the first batch of chicken parts sank, to the sound of applause, into the pig fat.” Or: “… the loose weather stripping that peeped like a gang banger’s drawers from the seams around the back door.”

The major flaw lies in the glut of characters; initially, it’s difficult keeping track of who’s who. Nonetheless, it’s clear everyone, from actors to midwives, is just trying to get by in life while a poor economy, outdated technology and children get in the way.

Telegraph Avenue
Four Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2012
465 pages


2 responses to “Street Life

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  1. Very impressive. You know I love a good, juicy run-on sentence. Also, I think maybe a description of my book might read something like ….flawed with a glut of difficult to keep track of characters trying to get by in life… This review made me think about that, since some of the feedback I have received has been very similar. 🙂 Too late to fix it now, but it will definitely make me think twice before giving every single person in the next one a name!

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