This is a big book. Physically, metaphorically. You name it, it's big. When it first came out, the author Ben Percy wrote in Esquire that
Chabon writes big. His hulking plots defy summary. When I read one of his novels, I feel a little like I do when I turn a corner in the Met and see the gorgeous sprawl and splatter of Pollock's Autumn Rhythm, when I crank up the volume on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- awed, hypnotized, overwhelmed. His maximalist style suits his maximalist stories, like the Zap! and Pow! sound effects of a comic-book panel.
I agree. But attempt to summarize I will. Telegraph Avenue is essentially about a man named Archy. Archy owns a vinyl record shop. His wife is eight months pregnant. He has fidelity issues. His business is being threatened by a new rival chain owned by a famous rapper. He also has father issues (his father was a "famous" actor in Blackploitation films who became a crack addict) and he might just be the father himself of a taciturn kid named Titus who is riding his bike back in forth in front of his house.
So Archy's got some problems, and like the protagonist in The Wonder Boys, these problems are all going to come to a head in a short time frame that can be both exhausting for the main character, as well as the reader. But Chabon is a skilled write,r and while he takes a large bite, it's mostly chewable.
But then you come to part III, which is one sentence that goes on for 12 pages (no, that is not a typo). I'm not sure what Chabon was trying to accomplish with this non-sentence. But having been forewarned, I simply skipped over it. And though I might have missed some awesome literary feat, I didn't miss any details in the story (I think). Perhaps I should have forced myself to read it, but one shouldn't have to force oneself, I think, to read any aspect of a book.
So while I enjoyed the novel as a whole, in my humble opinion, it could have benefited from being a bit smaller.
Says the girl who is about to go eat a big turkey dinner. (Canadian thanksgiving as I write this.)
Anywho, week 42 is M.I. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans. Here's hoping I don't get lost at sea.
Follow Catherine McKenzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cemckenzie1