More specifically, the book is set on what Chabon describes early as the "ragged fault line" between Oakland and Berkeley, inside a used wax shop called Brokeland Records that one character, Archy Stallings, dubs "the last coconut palm on the last atoll about to be flattened by the wave of late capitalism." That wave of late capitalism is Dogpile, a monolithic mega-mall containing movie theaters, clothing stores and, yes, a record shop, which threatens the livelihoods of Stallings and Nat Jaffe, the racially mixed co-proprietors of the old-school music outlet.
Ever since you turned 40, you've said your books have been your attempt to reconnect with your identity. How does "Telegraph" address that?
I grew up in Columbia, Md., a planned, racially-integrated city built in the 1960s between Baltimore and
It's interesting, because when you read novels like "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," you do notice an absence of these black characters.
I live on the line between Oakland and Berkeley, so I had a good foundation for research. For "Telegraph," the idea came from visiting a single record store called Berrigan's, where there was one black owner and one white. It was space where people could talk jazz and vinyl regardless of skin color. In my mind, it was Columbia writ small.
So, naturally, your book research consisted of you telling your wife, "Hey, I'm going to listen to vinyls all day."
It was a very painful process because I forced myself to listen to records and use vintage audio equipment. Just terrible. [laughs] Listening got me through the most discouraging parts of this book:
One of your characters is an ex-blaxploitation star. Jaffe's son, Julius, takes a class about the movie
Given your track record of comic books, sports, hard-boiled detectives and now records, you've been tackling subjects that make men geek out.
In "Telegraph," two of the main female characters are midwives. I got interested in the work that midwives do because my wife and I hired one to help us with the birth of our second child. I knew I had this heavily male plot that I was contemplating, going into a record store, and I thought it was a great idea to counterbalance that and create a female world at the same time, one that was inherently dramatic.
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables