Michael Chabon’s Telegaph Avenue was one of the most anticipated new novels published this fall. James Santel reviewed it for us:
In its literature’s extensive history of reckoning with the strange aftermath of the founding, the United States may never have seen an author who takes nostalgia as his theme as seriously, enthusiastically, and explicitly as Michael Chabon. Since the publication of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), his breakthrough third novel, Chabon has burrowed into the question of how Americans inhabit a present that unfolds in the shadows of a formidable past, examining, as he recently put it in the New York Times Magazine, “the lost utopia that never quite happened, that I never quite knew, that I have never since forgotten and that I have been losing, and longing for, all my life.” In Kavalier & Clay, that utopia is the glittering, art deco Manhattan of the 1930s, examined by way of the Golden Age of Comic Books. In The Yiddish Policemen’s Union(2007) — written as a Raymond Chandler pastiche, itself a kind of nostalgia — Israel assumes the Elysian role, as the novel imagines that the nation lost the 1948 war, sending thousands of refuges to the Alaskan coast and snuffing out the hope for a Jewish homeland mere months after its inception.
These subjects may sound narrow, but Chabon isn’t a marshal of curios. He uses the particularity of one tribe’s nostalgia — of comic book collectors, of New Yorkers, of Jews — to represent the generality of American longing. And his novels are fair-minded about nostalgia, interrogating the feeling even as they partake of it.