Compiled book reviews & scores

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

7.8

Michael Chabon's first novel since 2007 is the story of two lifelong friends struggling to keep their vinyl record store alive in the face of changing times in Oakland, California. As the two friends try to save their business, their friendship is put to the test as issues of race and identity and a huge cast of secondary characters come into play.

Fiction / Harper / September 11, 2012

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Critic's Reviews

9.4

Reviewer: Carolyn Kellogg

""Telegraph Avenue" is fantastic but in a different way: It returns to the realism of his earliest novels, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" and "Wonder Boys," with dizzying language, a delight in process and paragraph after paragraph of word-drunk riffs."

9.2

Reviewer: Attica Locke

"By writing so convincingly from behind the veil of black culture, Chabon has allowed the form of his novel to follow its function, making a powerful statement about the pulse of humanity that runs deeper than our skin colour."

9.0

Reviewer: Todd VanDerWerff

"With its frank consideration of African-American life in the 21st century, Telegraph Avenue might be Chabon’s riskiest novel yet, as he remains very much a white male author. Yet his compassion for his characters and this world washes away any early concerns and sends the novel spinning along dizzily from plot point to plot point."

8.7

Reviewer: Michiko Kakutani

"His 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 increasingly rare in our ADD age."

8.3

Reviewer: Michael Bourne

"Peel away Michael Chabon’s luminous prose, and his new novel Telegraph Avenue would be a pretty lackluster book....Yet until the final pages, when the meshugas that is the plot of Chabon’s novel finally falls of its own weight, Telegraph Avenue is a sparkling, mesmerizing read."

8.3

Reviewer: Claire Lowdon

"There is not a moment’s laziness; Chabon’s attention never lets up....The overwhelming impression is that of a writer working tirelessly to delight the reader and, by and large, succeeding."

8.2

Reviewer: Jess Walter

"The novel is on its surest footing when it treats race with a light hand, less the novel's subject than its setting - a constant but matter-of-fact backdrop for the action....If the novel missteps, it's in the occasional excess...and overreach for resonance."

8.1

Reviewer: Tim Walker

"At times, the prose is so loaded with imagery that it overwhelms the action....Chabon's latest is neither as expansive and moving as Kavalier and Clay, nor as intriguingly eccentric as The Yiddish Policemen's Union. But like a favourite old jazz LP, it's richly pleasurable from beginning to end."

7.7

Reviewer: Anthony Cummins

"It feels like a loss of nerve – as if Chabon isn’t quite sure he managed to set down what lay in his head as he conceived the book. Even so, Telegraph Avenue is too formidable (and pleasurable) to misfire just because it wears its heart on its sleeve."

7.5

Reviewer: Sam Sacks

"As the author himself ages, it is possible that a greater sense of gravity will enter his work; he may even, hard as it is to imagine, write a sad book one day. For now, though, he has found a rewarding balance of far-seeing maturity and a wonderfully entertaining spirit of play."

7.0

Reviewer: Jennifer Egan

"Much of the wit in “Telegraph Avenue” inheres in Chabon’s astonishing prose....Chabon has always struck me as a joyful writer — his own pleasure and curiosity are part of the reading experience. This time, his curiosity may surpass the reader’s; “Telegraph Avenue” feels over-dense, larded with digressions that hamper the acceleration of its complicated plot."

6.8

Reviewer: Ron Charles

"I love its sensitive and comic treatment of parenthood. Its exploration of the tensions between whites and blacks, between commercialism and nostalgia, between our dreams and our responsibilities is wonderful. But “Telegraph Avenue” often feels as though it requires more labor than it deserves."

6.8

Reviewer: Glen Weldon

"Chabon has set out to present his readers with a slice-of-life portrait of a neighborhood at a crossroads. The problem is that Telegraph Avenue is no mere slice — it's an entire deep-dish pie of humanity, packed with prose capable of dazzling us even as it leaves us feeling overstuffed and logy."

6.1

Reviewer: Troy Patterson

"The book’s naive outlook is at odds with its sophisticated verbal surface. Chabon has often been a softie; here, his chin-up optimism about the human race proves mostly ingratiating and totally unsupportable in light of what we know about real-life humans."