Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Evening at "Brokeland Records" with Michael Chabon

Yes, I've been a bad, bad blogger.  I basically took the summer off.  It was a rough summer, and I needed something really special to jump-start my blog for the fall lit season.  That something special was delivered to me by Michael Chabon and the good folks at HarperCollins.  Michael's contribution was the writing of Telegraph Avenue, which has just become my favorite read of 2012.  I'm very proud to have written the "most helpful" review of the novel on Amazon, and my review of Telegraph Avenue can be read on the blog here.  There is nothing better than being able to sing the praises of a book you truly loved.

So, the publishing industry isn't known for wildly creative marketing events, but kudos to HarperCollins for their promotion of Telegraph Avenue.  For one week, they've turned Diesel Books in Oakland--very close to where the novel is set--into the fictional Brokeland Records at the heart of the novel, complete with signage, shopping bags, and vintage vinyl for sale!  I shot 30 seconds of video as I approached the store.  I was jay-walking in heels and blinded by the sun, so you get what you get.  You can just see the record bins at the front of the store as the video ends.

Completists are invited to view a one-minute tour of the inside of the store. In addition to launching the novel, the evening was a benefit for 826 Valencia, founded by Dave Eggers.  Video of Eggers talking about his organization and hopeful plans for a future Oakland branch, as well as his introduction of Michael Chabon may be viewed here. Finally, Michael took the stage, and began the evening with some old technology and a musical interlude. This may well be the only place you can hear the original composition, the "Theme from Telegraph Avenue."

Afterwards, Michael shared his affection for Diesel Books, his "neighborhood bookstore" and our hosts for the evening. He extolled the numerous cakes that had been baked for the event, which can be better seen in the photograph above. And briefly, he spoke about Telegraph Avenue's genesis, and set up the excerpt he was about to read. The second video is the reading from the novel.

Next, Michael opens the Q & A with questions about some of his earliest musical experiences, how the novel came about, what it's like to write about a world he knows intimately, and the joy of unusual words. (Am I the only person utterly charmed by his use of the phrase "consensus reality"?)

More questions about neighborhood stores he misses, paper versus e-books, book bundling (with a consult from the "publishing industry"), favorite live concerts, and recommendations for children (with a consult from a child).

And that was the end of the Q & A. Afterwards, Michael promoted a raffle to benefit 826 Valencia.  The grand prize is a vintage portable 8-track cassette player, much like the one carried by Julie Jaffe in the novel, and a Telegraph Avenue mix tape recorded by Michael.  He's a nostalgic guy, and this is just funny...


And finally it is cake time:

Uploading this video takes forever! (No wonder I took the summer off.) The good news
for you, but bad news for me, is that I have heaps of video and book reviews stacked up and ready for posting. I will try to get back to my regular posting schedule, because there are so many good books coming out each week this time of year, and great authors coming through San Francisco nightly.

  For now, I'm delighted to have shared a really special launch party for a really special book. Michael will be touring extensively this fall. Check his schedule and see if he'll be coming to you. Oh, and if you'd like a signed first edition of this fantastic book, I can't imagine a better place to order from than our good friends at Diesel Books.


  1. Thanks for recording and posting all this! What a cool launch!

  2. You're totally welcome, Lisa. I knew there was someone out there as geeky as me that would appreciate the effort! Honestly, it really was such a cool event, how could I not record it for posterity?

    Meanwhile, this is turning out to be a great week! I'm off to see my second Pulitzer Prize-winner this week. Junot Diaz is reading at Copperfield's tonight.