Liked It1 of 1 members found this review helpful
“What a delight to be treated to this life affirming story after sustaining a series of books by Chabon that did not live up to the pleasures of “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay.” He clearly loves all his characters in this tale, and I was quite satisfied how their challenges in his...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It1 of 1 members found this review helpful
“Dearest readers, I tried to like this book...really did. Like a good Catholic schoolgirl I slogged through nearly 200 pages before quietly ending my misery. It's Michael Chabon for God's sake, surely the story will unfold and I'll enter paradise....No. reading this novel was like listening to...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Yes, Chabon has a propensity to WRITE, but he's one of the best there is writing today. His phrasing and description are worth the price of admission. Do not skim this book. The action is secondary; the journey is extraordinary. ”Brian S wrote this review 22 hours ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I found this book a real slog- I didn't identify with any of the characters and found some of their motives incomprehensible. Too much nerdy detail about music. ”LJill wrote this review 10 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Although Michael Chabon is one of my favorite contemporary writers this one failed to grab me, and seeing as it is rather long, I'm going to set it down for a while.”moik wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Dearest readers, I tried to like this book...really did. Like a good Catholic schoolgirl I slogged through nearly 200 pages before quietly ending my misery. It's Michael Chabon for God's sake, surely the story will unfold and I'll enter paradise....No. reading this novel was like listening to leaf blowers and squirrel chatterings, and someone trying real hard to impress me with all the pop funk slang and band brand names tied up like cherry stems knotted on the tongue. Exhausting! I did not feel emotion, just woodpecker poundings of complicated sentences and obscure music references from the 70s. Sigh.”Cecelia K wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“What a delight to be treated to this life affirming story after sustaining a series of books by Chabon that did not live up to the pleasures of “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay.” He clearly loves all his characters in this tale, and I was quite satisfied how their challenges in his narrative led them to evolve toward their visions in some cases or successfully stumble past their misfortunes in others.
The story concerns the struggles of a black couple, Archy Stallings and Gwen Shanks, in keeping their businesses, their marriage, and their principles alive in their multicultural community in Oakland in 2004. Archy runs Brokeland Records with his Jewish partner, Nat, which faces extinction from the impending development of a big-box book and record store in their neighborhood of Telegraph Avenue. Gwen runs a midwifery business with Mat’s wife Aviva, which is threatened by conflicts with the local hospital and potential lawsuits from clients.
On top of these problems, Gwen is due to deliver her first baby soon, Archy’s teenaged son he’s never met turns up in town as a friend and lover of Nat and Aviva’s son, and Archy’s estranged father, Luther, once a kung-fu star in “blaxploitation” films from the 80’s, is up to some kind of blackmail scheme. In the middle of all this, a talented jazz musician who was a father figure to Archy dies, and most of Archy’s focus settles on a funeral event that will bring the community together.
Listing some of these menu items I believe does nothing to spoil the reading pleasures that can be had from Chabon’s marvelous execution of the tale. Page after delicious page, I found great comedy and pathos in his construction, engaging dialog, and flights of prose that much resemble the jazz riffs that figure largely in his perpetual homage and metaphorical references to music.
There is no hint of egoistic pretentiousness in his prose. When he slips “over the top”, it’s all in good fun. A parrot named Fifty-Eight, belonging to one of Brokeland’s regular customers, contributes to a farcical deflation on some serious discussions early in the book. A remarkable chapter covering the bird’s getaway comprises a 12-page sentence that darts in and out from the bird’s perspective to an omniscient view of the book’s main characters. To me, it ranks up there with similar stream-of-consciousness flights in Joyce, Woolf, and Pynchon.
The following are some samples of Chabon’s the writing style and playful method of delivering insights in the book. Here Gwen reflects on her marriage:
As for her marriage, she had fallen in love with Archy Stallings having no illusions about his sexual past or his strength of character. But the outbreak of forgiveness that followed each new transgression of her husband, as typhus followed a flood, called into question the difference, if any, between illusion and its willful brother, delusion, with its crackpot theories and tinfoil hat.
Archy, here tries to hook his Councilman to support his cause against the competing development:
Councilman, you made me realize, thank you, but me and Mr. Jones and Nat Jaffe and our kind of people, we already got a church of our own. You, too, seemed like at one time, up to not too long ago, a member in good standing. And that church is the church of vinyl.
Some revelations on Archy’s character from his hero musician Cochise Jones:
“You got the good heart. Underneath all the other stuff. Good heart is eighty-five percent of everything in life.”
Tears ran burning along the gutters of Archy’s eyes. Generally, he tried, following the example of Marcus Aurelius, to avoid self-pity, but Archy had not experienced a great deal of appreciation in his life for his good qualities, for his potential as a man. …Only Mr. Jones had always stopped to drop a needle in the long inward spiraling groove that encoded Archy, and listen to the vibrations. …
“What is the other fifteen percent?”, Nat said, “Just out of curiosity?”
“Politeness,” Mr. Jones said without hesitation. “And keeping a level head.”
A black entrepreneur behind the megaplex store puts the mission of selling used records into perspective:
All right then, look at it this way. The world of black music has undergone some form of apocalypse, you follow me? You look at the landscape of the black idiom in music now, it is post-apocalyptic. Jumbled-up mess of broken pieces. Shards and samples. Gangsters running in tribes. …But face it, I mean, a lot has been lost. A whole lot. Ellington, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, we got nobody of that caliber even hinted at in black music nowadays. I’m talking about genius, composers, know what I’m saying? Quincy Jones, Charles Stepney, Weldon Irvine. Shit, knowing how to play the fuck out of your instrument. Guitar, saxophone, bass, drums, we used to own those motherfuckers. Trumpet! We were the landlords, white players had to rent that shit from us. …
I’m saying we are living in the aftermath. All’s we got is a lot of broken pieces. And you’ve been picking up those broken pieces, and dusting them off, and keeping them all nice and clean, and that’s commendable. Truly.”
“Super-awed. Prose beyond compare. Stratospheric sentences. So intelligent. Made me realize the sketchiness of my knowledge of music. Took some effort but that's OK by me. Loved Nat, Julie and Titus. ”tishiejean wrote this review Saturday, March 30, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I loved reading this book after the second half, which means that I had to chop my way through 250 pages of the first half. Starting from the 13 page sentence, the book made a great change for the better, was much more readable and the story picked up pace.
In summary, I felt good about reading the book, especially since my job in real life in connected to it, but for most people, I just cannot recommend it. You would have to know a lot about music, movies and about midwives to appreciate it. That is a combination that is not found to often, I would think.”
“Net gekocht. Ga ik vlot aan beginnen. Altijd weer een genoegen. Een slechte Chabon is nog altijd een goede .... (vul zelf maar een prutser in). Maar dit is na lezing dus bepaald geen slechte Chabon, integendeel. Mengsel van Quentin Tarantino en Grail Marcus. Het enige 'minpunt' is dat een uitgebreide discografie ontbreekt. Want muziek, en met name de langspeelplaat, is de hoofdpersoon in dit boek. Jazz en de (zwarte) populaire muziek tot aan de jaren '80. Gelardeerd met een buurtgeschiedenis van een stukje Oakland (Brokeland), een who-dunnit en een relatie thriller.”G. de Bruin wrote this review Friday, March 8, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I think Chabon is a manic genius, but he's great fun to read!”Sherry A wrote this review Wednesday, March 6, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Tedious. Michael Chabon is a great author but this is just too much. I get that it reads like a Tarantino film plays out but stop slamming it into our heads! And the dialogues that go on and on... ugh. Stop already. Learn to edit. Tedious.”heather wrote this review Thursday, February 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No