Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Telegraph Avenue Readalong- Dream of Cream

So I'm through part one of Telegraph Avenue, entitled "Dream of Cream" after the favorite pastry of Archy, one of the main characters. The first part is composed of several strands of action and characters, but the main thrust involves two families and the demise of the American Dream in the form of a used-record store, a hip little decades-old joint serving collectors of rarified jazz and recent gems.

The owners are a Jewish family who've served the community for years, built a community of music lovers. A big company wants to build an all-purpose superstore of urban music and culture- including a used-record department- in a local mall. At the same time, Archy's got problems. His wife's pregnant and convinced he's cheating on her. She is a midwife with problems of her own, and there's more than that.

I will admit I have a somewhat shaky grasp on the characters and their relationships to one another. Chabon's style strikes me as flowery and almost over-descriptive; this is the first book of his I've read, and I've been reading a lot crime fiction and noirs lately, which are very different in style. I've therefore been finding the book a little difficult to penetrate. When I can force myself to slow down and linger over his lengthy descriptions, asides and tangents, it's fascinating and absorbing, and he is certainly an excellent stylist with a skill with language.  I'm going to read the rest of the posts from the readalong bloggers, then take a deep breath and dive into part two.

I'll be back next Tuesday with another post! Check out As the Crowe Flies (And Reads) for the rest of the readalong.

Pre-Order from Powell's:
Telegraph Avenue
by Michael Chabon
Powells.com
 I'm a Powell's partner and receive a small commission on sales.

I received an ARC of Telegraph Avenue, out in September, from HarperCollins for the readalong.

13 comments:

Audra said...

I'm with you -- my updated ended up being a small novel so I'm going to rein myself in next week -- but this book isn't totally clicking with me. Chabon's writing style is about the only think I like -- it reminds me of a jazz riff! -- as I'm kind of 'eh' on the plot and the characters. :/

Nicole said...

I think there was a LOT of set up in this first part. More than maybe should be in a novel. I'm hoping we dive deeper into the plot and into the character's relationships in the second part. But Dream of Cream seemed to exist solely for character introduction and to outline the themes of the novel.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Yes! I'm so glad I wasn't the only one having trouble keeping up with the characters. That being said, there are so many passages that strike me dumb, either for their beauty of language, their poignancy, or their humor. I've got lots of dog-eared pages in my copy.

And I think Nicole is right--there's a LOT being set up in the first section.

I can't say I love the book so far, but I'm totally intrigued by where he might be going. I particularly want to find out more about Titus & Julie, about what's gonna happen with the midwife situation, and to see if Luther Stallings becomes the lynchpin around which the plot will pivot. he's mostly a mystery to me at this point.

Kerry M said...

I'm hoping Nicole is right and that the first part was set up and the second part will dive more in to story. I'm half tempted to make a list of all the characters to keep track of them... so far, I'm not in love with the story, though I do love Chabon's writing.

Zibilee said...

I do remember reading one of Chabon's earlier books and struggling with it, so you are not alone. There are some great moments with his writing, but overall, I think the book I read, Kavalier and Clay, wasn't for me. Thanks for sharing your initial impressions on this one with us. I will be looking forward to hearing more before I decide!

Lindsey said...

I think this is a novel you really have to commit to. This is definitely not a book you can breeze through, but I sort of enjoy reading a book that makes you work a little bit.

Robyn said...

You're right that this is the kind of reading that really slows you down...like snail's pace, which is kind of frustrating for me, but an interesting experience. The other Chabon I've read was The Yiddish Policeman's Union, where he seems to be imitating that noir style, but very wordily.

Brooks Williams said...

There is a lot going on between the flashbacks, the scene with Mr. Nostalgia, the birth & hospital scenes, the Jules scenes, and the stuff going on at Brokeland Records. It was becoming more easy going near the end of the section and I imagine it will continue that way.

Audra said...

I'm aiming to do a quick reread this weekend and then plunge on to Part II -- I really just feel like I 'missed' something -- partially b/c of my need to obsessively research!

Laurie said...

I'm two score pages into the second chapter, and so far Brooks is right: Much more plot- and character- driven. I think I may be the only reader among us who found this novel over-written and conspicuously crafted rather than stylistically appealing during the first chapter. It seemed to me that Chabon's "style" intruded upon characterization and narrative rather than supporting them. Luckily, in "The Church of Vinyl", the balance shifts and I'm thoroughly enjoying the novel now.

Jennifer said...

I'm sad that people don't seem to be liking this because I'm really enjoying it! Though it did take me 30 or so pages to get into it. I hope it gets better for you once you get more used to the style. Oh, and the store is owned by two friends, Archy and Nat, not a family. I don't think either is Jewish but I could be wrong.

Amy said...

It took me a bit to get into it too, but I'm feeling more optimistic as I start the second part.

Kathleen said...

I have not yet read any Chabon so will be curious to hear your final verdict on this novel.