Park Slope

Chabon to celebrate ‘Telegraph Avenue’ in Brooklyn

Brooklyn BookBeat: Renowned author featured in ‘Brooklyn By The Book’ series

October 2, 2013 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Acclaimed writer Michael Chabon will be making an appearance in Brooklyn this fall to celebrate the paperback release of his latest novel “Telegraph Avenue” (Harper Perennial). On Oct. 3, the author will be featured at Community Bookstore’s and Congregation Beth Elohim’s series Brooklyn By The Book series, which aims to enrich the literary culture in the Park Slope area.

Originally published last September, “Telegraph Avenue” garnered praise from esteemed writers and critics, many of whom have described it as a great American novel. Jennifer Egan, whose book “A Visit From the Goon Squad” won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, said, “Chabon has made a career of routing big, ambitious projects through popular genres with superlative results…The scale of ‘Telegraph Avenue’ is no less ambitious…Much of the wit…inheres in Chabon’s astonishing prose. I don’t just mean the showy bits…I mean the offhand brilliance that happens everywhere.”

Indeed, Chabon’s novel is an ambitious American classic examining race, class, gender roles and popular culture. Set in Oakland in 2004, “Telegraph Avenue” provides a glimpse into the ever-changing urban American culture through two families whose stories are woven together. Brokeland Records, a used vinyl store owned by lifelong friends Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, has long been situated on Telegraph Avenue. For years the shop has struggled to make ends meet, and it faces its greatest challenge yet with the imminent arrival of a competing enterprise backed by ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, an enormously wealthy icon in the African American community.   

Archy and Nat’s wives, Gwen and Aviva, are also in business together as midwives.  Their enterprise, Berkeley Birth Partners, is among the most respected of its kind in the East Bay area. But their practice faces its own issues when a procedure goes awry.

Archy’s circumstances become increasingly complicated when his family life unravels: his surrogate father has died in a tragic accident, his birth father resurfaces, Gwen discovers he has been seeing a waitress, and the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged arrives in Oakland.

As Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times put it, “Telegraph Avenue” is “an amazingly rich, emotionally detailed story…[Chabon’s] people  become so real to us, their problems so palpably netted in the author’s buoyant, expressionistic prose, that the novel gradually becomes a genuinely immersive experience—something rare…”
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The Oct. 3 event will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim (274 Garfield Place in Park Slope).

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