I first of all want to thank Emily at As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!) for organizing this spectacular read-along and sending us all advance copies of this wonderful novel. You have one month still left to order your copy here, or locally at Village Lights Bookstore, before the book goes on sale in September!
This was a great choice for a read-along book. Dense, with so much to talk about. Confusing at moments in a way that made you thankful for other people’s clarity and reassurance. The kind of novel that raises all kinds of interesting social questions, many of which I haven’t even touched on here.
For example, I know on many other blogs, folks just couldn’t get enough of Julie Jaffe. Yes, I loved this kid, too, and there’s so much to say about his relationship with Titus. It is the image of these two kids with which Chabon begins the book. Theirs is (I believe) the only interracial romantic and sexual relationship in the book (leaving aside the friendships between Gwen, Aviva, Archy and Nat). And in the end, it appears that their relationship cannot survive in the real world. At the end of the novel, we’re left to gather that Titus has found new friends, and Julie has found new friends, and the only place they can hang out is in the virtual world as made-up characters.
I found that ending to Julie and Titus’ relationship sad, if not perhaps, believable. They seemed to exist in a very small world on the streets of Telegraph Avenue during the summer months. They never seemed to encounter any other kids their own age. And while the adults all seemed rather blase about their relationship, I don’t think their same-age peers–black or white–would be very enthusiastic. Sure, it’s the bay area, but I don’t know…it seems to me that even in Oakley it’s still hard to be a 15 year old gay kid.
I’m still not exactly sure what to get from the ending of this book. Were we watching the total end of the intermingling of the Jaffe and Stallings families? Is everyone going their separate ways like Julie and Titus? If the answer is yes, it makes me see the whole of the novel as almost like a take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There was the craziness of the summer, and then the resumption of life as normal, which includes the status quo of racially segregated social lives.
I found it interesting that the novel ended with the record store, soon to become a baseball card store. In the end, this is a novel about the place. Telegraph Avenue in general, but also Brokeland Records specifically. If you read my blog, you know that I’m a huge fan of place (in fact, I have my very own word to describe the love of place…placism). So I’m wondering why it was only at the end that it occurred to me that place is smack-dab at the center of this novel. Am I just dense? Or was the place being described so very foreign to me that I didn’t really recognize it as such?
Reading Telegraph Avenue with a group of smart and insightful fellow bloggers was a nice way to spend this particular summer month, at any rate. The last thing I would say about this novel is that if it was originally intended to be a tv show, I hope that doesn’t preclude the possibility that it might still become one. I would so watch this.