We haven't yet had the time to read it ourselves, but the reviews are coming in for Michael Chabon's new novel Telegraph Avenue, which is set in 2004 in Oakland but which reaches back through Bay Area history of the 60s and 70s. This is the first locally set work from the Berkeley-based author, and Michiko Kakutani at the NYT says it paints "an extraordinarily tactile, Kodachrome-crisp picture of the Bay Area."
The book centers around a record store on Telegraph Avenue near the Oakland-Berkeley border called Brokeland Records and its two owners, Archy and Nat, one black and one Jewish. The store is being threatened by a developer who wants to build a big multiplex cinema and mall on the property it sits on, and the there is a complex fight to save it despite some public support for the mall and the jobs it would provide. Naturally, the Oakland city council is involved, and luckily Archy's father a former blaxploitation movie star has some sway with an old friend on the council.
Also, as in all of Chabon's other books, there are a couple of gay characters too: Nat's teenage son, and a 14-year-old love child of Archy's who appears back in town and seduces him.
Because the subject is a record store, Chabon has filled the novel with references to the music that Archy and Nat love, the jazz, funk, soul, rock, and R&B of the mid-20th Century. Kakutani says "the result is a novel with the grooviest soundtrack since High Fidelity." She chides Chabon a bit for "trying very hard 'to sound like he was from the ’hood,'" in creating his black characters, but for the most part, she likes the book and says it's "a genuinely immersive experience." Furthermore, the Boston Globe calls the book "astounding" and "stuffed with so many riffs and detours... [but it] also has startling harmonies and symmetries."