My good friend, Emily at As the Crowe Flies (And Reads) is hosting a read-along of Michael Chabon’s new novel, Telegraph Avenue. This novel is so new, it’s not even out yet, but you can pre-order a copy for September 2012, here. This is my first ever read-along, and I’m a little nervous. Some of my very favorite bloggers are reading along with this one, which is great, and also a little intimidating.
Our first task is to share our experiences with Michael Chabon. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you might know that I often think I have read books which I have not, in fact, actually read. In fact, I sometimes have very detailed memories of books which I have not actually ever read. So, I felt certain that I had probably read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay at some point. But sometimes just seeing a book in a prominent spot on the bookshelves of repeated bookstores is enough to convince me that I have actually read the book. You know, that fuzzy area where “this is a book I should have read” becomes “this is certainly a book that I have read”? Well, I have not read Kavalier and Clay, but I did listen to many, many hours of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union in my car. It took me a very long time to figure out that there was not actually a town or area in Alaska populated by Jewish exiles from Nazi Germany. I thought maybe this was just something that I, personally, didn’t know about. Am I starting to sound like someone who has a rather slender grip on reality?
The short version is that he (Chabon) grew up in a planned neighborhood with lots of black & white people living in harmony but then he became an adult and moved around in mostly affluent white circles, when he realized that his teen self most likely wouldn’t have approved of his adult self. The long version starts with the black & white communities’ very different reactions to the O. J. Simpson trial, moves on to the institutionalized racism that he’d unwittingly become a part of, and ends with the “apartheid of consciousness” that very much still marks the American landscape.
In other words, Michael Chabon was talking about race in America in a very open and honest way at 8:30 in the morning, and that was enough to get me to sit up and take notice. You see, most people don’t really address race in America, openly and honestly, at any time of day, much less over breakfast.
Well, exactly, really. I would only say that most white people in America especially don’t like talking about race, and so that Chabon has chosen to is potentially impressive.
Here’s our schedule for the read-along: