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In this latest novel by Michael Chabon we meet Archy and Nat. They are co-owners of a vinyl record store along Telegraph Avenue, a commercial strip in a run-down part of Oakland, California. The two face bankruptcy with the impending arrival of a music megastore. Wives Gwen and Aviva have their own set of problems as practicing midwives dealing with snooty doctors and a lawsuit. Other characters barrel in and out of the novel. There’s Archy’s father, a former drug addict and 70’s kung fu movie star, and Titus, Archy’s illegitimate teenage son who shows up unexpectedly. Nat’s son Julie, a budding artist and gentle soul, loves Titus. Archy considers Cochise Jones, a minor musician, to be the real father in his life. Gwen is eight months pregnant with Archy’s child. A theme emerges of fathers and sons, intertwined with descriptions of food and jazz music and a vibrant neighborhood that moves to its own beat. Telegraph Avenue is an exuberant, character-driven story filled with colorful descriptions of culture and family, sure to keep you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
There are many websites and databases dedicated to historical photographs, but I recently found one I think is really neat. It's called retronaut. Retronaut is sort of a Pinterest for historical photos, and its archive focuses on unusual and weird moments in history and pop culture. For example, you've probably seen pictures of Winston Churchill; but have you ever seen him with in his bathing suit at the beach? Or how about Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet next to the Sphynx? Now that's what I'm talking about! You might think some of these pictures are Photoshopped, but they're really not. Give Retronaut a try if you want to see historical images you just might not find anywhere else.