Monday, August 06, 2012

Telegraph Avenue Read-Along: Week 4

I'm participating in a pre-publication read-along of Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, hosted by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!).  You can pre-order Telegraph Avenue from this independent bookstore or at a local independent bookstore near you.  If you want to read more about this section of Telegraph Avenue, check out the other blogs that are participating!

Ugh... a week late, even though I finished the book in time to write the post last week.  The thing about blogging is that you have to make the time to do it and if your time is limited... it just gets tough.  Life got in the way and that's all I have to say about it.  But here we are and I guess I should wrap this up.

Part Five is called Brokeland and it takes all of those dangling plot-lines and ties them up in a neat bow.

I like that and I don't like that.  As a reader, it's satisfying to have all of the parts accounted for.  The characters that you've come to love or hate all have a nice conclusion and you know where they're going and everything is cool and happy-ish.  But I also like books that leave a lot unresolved.  For me, part of reading is forming a relationship with the characters and, for a time, sharing a mental space with them.  They're in my head for so long that when the story ends, sometimes it's nice for things to be a bit open-ended.  They get to live on for a while.  And that's how life is, right?  It's a rare thing when everything and everyone is nicely resolved.  When everything has a perfect conclusion it just kinda rings false.

The rest of this will go better if I make a list:

  • I feel like there's a significance to Nat delivering Gwen's baby, but I can't quite put my finger on it.  I can come up with stuff about Nat finally needing to do something decisive in a stressful situation, but I'm not sure if that's really it.
  • When Archy sleeps with Kai after the funeral I felt like it was his bottom.  As in, he's sunk as far as he can go and it's time to start looking up again.  He has a sense of shame that he didn't seem to have before.
  • I like that Titus continues to be an enigma even at the end.  We never really know him because I think he doesn't really know himself. 
  • My favorite part of this section was when Archy goes to bail Luther out of the situation with Chan Flowers.  There's a moment where he acknowledges that he loves his Dad, despite all of the bullshit.  And at that moment Archy opened up for me and I understood.
  • Fathers and sons have a slippery relationship.  It's something between worship and resentment and fear and respect and confusion and it just ping-pongs between all of those things.  I see that with Archy and Titus and Archy and Luther.  I see it with Nat and Julie.  
  • For what it's worth, I was kind of disappointed with Archy's new career choice.
  • But I did like and understand what Nat decided to do with himself.
  • Which makes me think about how the white people in Telegraph Avenue have a passion for something that they can't live without.  A singular vision that defines who they are.  The black people don't seem to have that.  Well, except for Luther Stallings.  That dude was comitted.  
  • I don't think Telegraph Avenue is about race or sexuality.  Those are some interesting ways to frame the story, but I don't think that's the central issue.  It seemed to be more about people living in a modern society, figuring out how to move beyond their past (their history, their identity, their assumptions) and embrace their present.
In Conclusion:  The writing was excellent.  Even if the story was garbage (it wasn't), the writing would have saved the book for me.  The story was pretty good, but as I said up top, I wasn't a huge fan of the neat and clean ending.  

I want to thank Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) for the opportunity to participate in this pre-publication read-along.  I had a lot of fun and met some really interesting bloggers.  You were all wonderful and I loved reading your thoughts each week (even if you DNF'd the book!).  Apologies for posting this so late!

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