Diesel Books to moonlight as Chabon’s Brokeland Records

Michael Chabon’s forthcoming novel “Telegraph Avenue” is set in Oakland in and around a used record store, Brokeland Records. Independent Oakland bookstore Diesel Books will stand in for the fictional store from Sept. 7-14, becoming a temporary pop-up version of Brokeland Records, complete with jazz records for sale.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Harper is creating exterior Brokeland Records signs to temporarily replace the Diesel signs, as well as Brokeland Records bags, buttons, and stamps for book purchases made during the week. There will also be a landing page for ‘Diesel in Brokeland’ on Diesel’s website.” Diesel, which also has two locations in Southern California, has already posted teaser photographs of what look like record store bins being moved into place at the Oakland store.

Chabon, who lives in the East Bay, has written more than a dozen books. His last major novel was 2007’s “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”; he won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.”

“Telegraph Avenue” digs into and detours around the lives -- in 2004 and before -- of the owners of Brokeland Records, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe.


“The sixties get all the credit for a time of social change and experimentation and so on,” Chabon says in a video that was included in an enhanced e-book preview of “Telegraph Avenue.” “To me, it was really the ‘70s that were the most liberated, the most willing to experiment decade in American history.... That produced a lot of excess, a lot of things that were easily mocked, but I think it was a sincere, genuine revolutionary impulse that was being acted out in all kinds of ways, both sublime and ridiculous.”

Chabon connects this sense of wild, sometimes foolhardy experimentation to his characters’ sense of being willing to try and possibly fail. In “Telegraph Avenue,” Stallings and Jaffe’s tenuous livelihood is threatened when a big-box record store sets its sights on the neighborhood.

If that’s a parallel to the fate faced by some independent bookstores, nobody’s saying.

Brokeland Records -- or is it Diesel Bookstore? -- will hold a book release party for “Telegraph Avenue” on Sept. 12. The event is a fundraiser for the literacy nonprofit 826, which will offer a raffle of items like a mixtape to go with the novel and an 8-track player donated by Chabon.


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