Telegraph Avenue

A white boy rode flatfoot on a skateboard, towed along, hand to shoulder, by a black boy pedaling a brakeless fixed-gear bike.

What an incredible load of ‘manpain’, good gracious. I know that a (main) character doesn’t necessarily has to be likable, but the amount of self-pity combined with a very flowery prose (not a comparison-possibility missed) makes Telegraph Avenue (an American High Fidelity) tough to work through.

The main characters come in pairs: old friends and music store owners Nat and Archy, old friends, wives of the music store owners and colleague-mid wives Gwen and Aviva and Titus and Julius. The second is Aviva and Nat’s son, the first is Archy’s son, returning to him after fourteen years of no relationship. Gwen doesn’t know about him and is carrying their first child together. Besides that there’s a big competitor threatening the music store, something happens during a delivery and Archy’s no good father returns to just add to the mess.

It’s not like there’s nothing happening, nor that the things happening are badly written. It’s just that all of the adults, with more weight on Archy’s side and less on Gwen’s, are so incredibly full of self pity and anger and a paralyzing lack of motivation that it pulls you down in a dark hole of frustration. Where is that machine that you can use to kick fictional character ass into gear?

Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon, Harper 2012

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