Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pop stuff: What I'm reading, hearing, watching, etc.

 
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
I'm 200 or so pages into this most recent and wonderful novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." This new one is on par with that one: A brilliant, scathing-yet-loving portrait of Chabon's homebase of Berkeley, Calif., in all its self-conscious grooviness and goofiness.

The story centers around the two 30-something owners of a tiny used record shop facing demise in the face of a new urban-hip megastore, their spouses -- both midwives, and other folks in the title neighborhood. Chabon speaks in voices male, female, black, white, straight gay, Jewish and African Amercan, capturing the area's celebrated diversity, teasing out the failings and absurdities of all the characters, but also their endearing humanity. It's not easy to lampoon folks without turning them into cartoons, but Chabon pulls it off. This is a fantastic portrayal/satire of modern American life and likely one of the best and most important novels of 2012/13.

Chabon's turns of phrase and use of language is as jaw-dropping as ever. This may be his best book to date. He's an amazing writer. In terms of style and structure, there are parallels here to Robert Altman films and TV series such as "The Wire" and "Treme"  -- lots of great characters intersecting in sometimes surprising ways. But TV and films can't use language and go this deep. I love the characters and all of Chabon's bountiful pop culture references: 70s funk, jazz, prog, Bronze-Age Marvel Comics, kung fu and blaxploitation flicks... it's all here.

I may do a follow-up post sharing my feelings once I'm finished with the book, but I doubt I'll be disappointed by the remaining half.

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Me-TV. Anyone else out there enjoying this "oldies" TV station available over-the-air and via cable in several markets across the U.S.? It's what TV Land was/should be, featuring a ridiculously great lineup of classic sitcoms and other programming. Notably, it's finally a place to see the 1960s Batman TV series on a regular basis. Other old favorites include "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mary Tyler Moore," "My Three Sons," "The Brady Bunch," "Wild, Wild West" ...  it all seems to be here. Reminds me of the days when all this stuff was on after school and on weekends. Then it all went away. Now it's back. My kids love these old shows, too. Surprising how well they hold up. Comfort TV at its best.

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Uncut Magazine Presents The Kinks
I came across this delightful surprise on the newstand a couple weeks back: It's a Mojo-sized mag dedicated exclusively to Ray Davies and band, filled with vintage article from Melody Maker and the New Musical Express, lots of great vintage photos and detailed reviews of the Kinks' complete LP output. It's one to keep and put on the bookshelf next the two-few books about this great band. Check your local book and record stores for copies, as the ones available via the online link I provided are too spendy.

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