Okay, a few things: I occasionally had trouble keeping up with the cast of characters, remembering which nickname or diminutive went with each formal name. Did that hold true with any of you?
I was also struck with the desire to see if there were any blaxploitation films on Netflix livestreaming that I could check out. I've never seen one, but I love the word blaxploitation. I think it might be the unexpected "x," because I also love the word juxtaposition.
Did anybody else notice that the Harper logo on the spine of the book is not their usual one with the hand and the torch? They swapped it out for the Black Power fist. Publishers usually aren't too keen with messing around with their logos, but I kinda love it when they do. Subtle but good. (As an aside, I think my favorite was Knopf with Geek Love--they gave their usual Borzoi an extra leg in honor of that book.)
Also, and I'm not sure what to do with this, or if things will change in the next sections, but it seems to me that Chabon is using rather more racial stereotypes in his characters than I would have expected in a book that is ostensibly about the exploration of race in contemporary America.
Then again, maybe he's just playing around with things and all will be made clear by the end. After all, I, myself, missed a piece of racist invective in part of the dialogue the first time I read it. Possibly because I didn't know what the phrase "conking your hair" meant, and at the time I had trouble remembering Gwen from Aviva; possibly because as person whose skin has privileged her, I've never had to be aware of that.
But now I know what it means to conk your hair. And that when something is bangin' it's a good thing. Yes, that's a glimpse into my circumscribed life.
That being said, when I'm not confusing which characters are which, or wondering why it's the black guy and not the white guy who is afraid of having children and can't keep his bidness in his pants, I'm totally drawn in to this novel. Never having visited California, the setting seems impossibly exotic to me. And of course the underdog used record store vs. the megastore is one that hits uncomfortably close to home. (aside: I mean, really, who can take seriously something called a Dogpile Thang?) Then, too, there are some seriously beautiful, humorous, and/or insightful phrases in the book.
Here are some of my favorite lines/passages from the book:
"The baby, understanding perhaps that it was purely rhetorical, made no attempt to answer this question."
"Thirty years too old, twenty pounds too light, forty watts too dim..."
"From the lowest limb of a Meyer lemon, a wind chime searched without urgency for a melody to play."
"The fog had burned off, leaving only a softness, as tender as a memory from childhood, to blur the sunlight that warmed the sprawl of rosemary and purple salvia along the fragrant sidewalk and fell in shifting shafts through the branches of the monkey-puzzle tree."
"Most of all, he was tired of being a holdout, a sole survivor, the last coconut hanging on the last palm tree on the last atoll in the path of the great wave of late-modern capitalism, waiting to be hammered flat." Holy shit, but does that feeling ever sound familiar!
Does book sound fabulous? If so, you can pre-order your copy here because it's being published in September from Harper