Excerpt from Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Telegraph Avenue

by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2013, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Print Excerpt


“Yeah,” Nat said. For a second the wire in him went slack. “Babies are cute. Then they grow up, stop taking showers, and beat off into their socks.”

There was a shadow in the door glass, and in walked S. S. Mirchandani, looking mournful. And the man had a face that was built for mourning, sag-eyed, sag-jowled, lamentation pooling in the spilt-ink splash of his beard.

“You gentlemen,” he said, always something elegiac and proper in his way of speaking the Queen’s English, some remembrance of a better, more civilized time, “are fucked.”

“I keep hearing that,” Archy said. “What happened?”

“Dogpile,” Mr. Mirchandani said.

“Fucking Dogpile,” Nat agreed, humming again.

“They are breaking ground in one month’s time.”

“One month?” Archy said.

“Next month! This is what I am hearing. Our friend Mr. Singletary was speaking to the grandmother of Mr. Gibson Goode.”

Nat said, “Fucking Gibson Goode.”

Six months prior to this morning, at a press conference with the mayor at his side, Gibson “G Bad” Goode, former All-Pro quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, president and chairman of Dogpile Recordings, Dogpile Films, head of the Goode Foundation, and the fifth richest black man in America, had flown up to Oakland in a customized black-and-red airship, brimming over with plans to open a second Dogpile “Thang” on the long-abandoned Telegraph Avenue site of the old Golden State market, two blocks south of Brokeland Records. Even larger than its giant predecessor near Culver City, the Oakland Thang would comprise a ten-screen cineplex, a food court, a gaming arcade, and a twenty-unit retail galleria anchored by a three-story Dogpile media store, one floor each for music, video, and other (books, mostly). Like the Fox Hills Dogpile store, the Oakland flagship would carry a solid general-interest selection of media but specialize in African-American culture, “in all,” as Goode put it at the press conference, “its many riches.” Goode’s pockets were deep, and his imperial longings were married to a sense of social purpose; the main idea of a Thang was not to make money but to restore, at a stroke, the commercial heart of a black neighborhood cut out during the glory days of freeway construction in California. Unstated during the press conference, though inferable from the way things worked at the L.A. Thang, were the intentions of the media store not only to sell CDs at a deep discount but also to carry a full selection of used and rare merchandise, such as vintage vinyl recordings of jazz, funk, blues, and soul.

“He doesn’t have the permits and whatnot,” Archy pointed out. “My boy Chan Flowers has him all tangled up in environmental impacts, traffic studies, all that shit.”

The owner and director of Flowers & Sons funeral home, directly across Telegraph from the proposed Dogpile site, was also their Oakland city councilman. Unlike Singletary, Councilman Chandler B. Flowers was a record collector, a free-spending fiend, and without fully comprehending the reasons for his stated opposition to the Dogpile plan, the partners had been counting on it, clinging to the ongoing promise of it.

“Evidently something has changed the Councilman’s mind,” said S. S. Mirchandani, using his best James Mason tone: arch and weary, hold the vermouth.

“Huh,” Archy said.

There was nobody in West Oakland more hard-ass or better juiced than Chandler Flowers, and the something that evidently had changed his mind was not likely to have been intimidation.

“I don’t know, Mr. Mirchandani. Brother has an election coming,” Archy said. “Barely came through the primary. Maybe he’s trying to stir up the base, get them a little pumped. Energize the community. Catch some star power off Gibson Goode.”

Excerpted from Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Chabon. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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