Saturday, 21 February 2015

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon – Leisure Suits


published 2012




Telegraph Avenue 4



[Musician Cochise Jones has a wardrobe full of leisure suits. This is his favourite: ]


The gem of his collection, it was profound and magical in its excess. White, piped with burnt orange,Telegraph Avenue 3 it had a rhinestone-cowboy feel to it, except at the yoke and at the cuffs of its sleeves and trousers, where it flamed into wild pseudo-Aztec embroidery, abstract patterns suggesting pink flowers, green succulents, bloodred hearts. Cochise had worn this suit, which he always called “my Aztec number”, three times before: once backing Bill James at the Eden Roc on the night when Hurricane Eloise hit; once at the Sahara in Las Vegas, where it attracted favourable comment from Sammy Davis Jr; and once, with improbable consequences, before a hometown crowd at Eli’s Mile High.







Telegraph 5
After that storied night in the annals of Oakland rumpus, Cochise had retired the Aztec number, sensing that it was a leisure of destiny. A suit not be squandered on an ordinary day in a man’s life, even if that man, on an ordinary day, rocked the B-3.









observations: First entry on the book explains more about the plot.

Ancient but revered musician Cochise Jones visits the key setting of the book, Brokeland Records in Telegraph Avenue, the whole time, and wears leisure suits. I had to pursue this – it’s not really a concept in the UK, I didn’t know if it meant a track suit. So I looked it up on Google Images, and I can only recommend that any interested reader to the same. The array of clothes that comes up is startling. What you see here is a mere taster, though sadly there was nothing quite living up to the number described above. I have no idea what B-3 means in this context. 

PlaidStallions.com is not just a great title for a website, it is a treasuretrove of images.


 
Telegraph Ave Monk


Just to even the sartorial/style balance, there is also a description of Archy wearing very sharp suit and adjusting ‘the angle of his genuine Basque beret’, which seems the perfect reason to produce another picture from the William P Gottlieb collection of jazz photos – two of which we used in the previous entry on the book. This one is Thelonius Monk. (Really I’d just like to run all the pictures from this collection at the Library of Congress).

The book seems to take place in 2004, and Barack Obama, then the Senator from Illinois, makes an entertaining cameo appearance.

The small record shop is beautifully described, though it is familiar stuff from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, from the film Empire Records, from real life. Archy says: ‘our kind of people, we already got a church of our own… and that church is the church of vinyl.’ The book is very well written, but – unlike Chabon’s other works - it isn’t surprising. But still, as I said last time, Chabon on a bad day is better than most people’s best.

There's much more of Michael Chabon on the blog – click on the labels below.










19 comments:

  1. I used to be a fairly major Chabon fan, but I couldn't make it through Telegraph Avenue. I tried for a good solid month, but I never engaged with any of the characters, or even the setting. So then I read Wonder Boys again--I'd already read it three times--and for some reason, I hated it this time. I'm a little sad that my Chabon appreciation seems to have gone away.

    The B-3 in this context is a Hammond B-3 organ. Don't they have to move a Hammond organ at some point? This will seem weird, but I actually know TWO people who have had to transport a Hammond organ (they're a pretty hot item for jazz musicians, and for a while, they were cheap and easy to find at estate sales and thrift shops... but then you had to get them home), and I can't remember whether the organ-moving story in my head is from this book or real life. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Molly, I'm glad it wasn't just me finding this one difficult. And yes, now you say this I think you're right, I just hadn't registered it.
      They have to move the organ for their wedding band, and it is quite important, because somebody isn't there to help, and someone else moves it on their own when they shouldn't for health reasons.


      Delete
  2. Moira - Ah, leisure suits! I remember them from years and years ago! And as you say, you still see them in certain situations. I think I would like the 'inside look' at music in this novel as much as anything else, really.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Margot, I always have a soft spot for books about people who obsess about music.

      Delete
  3. 20 tubs logged, 1000 books - still not found any Chabon.....where are you? It won't be this one though........anyway must dash....off to a party tonight and I can't decide between my checked and my pastel lemon leisure suit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew those fashions would appeal to a style-conscious fellow like yourself....

      Delete
  4. I remember leisure suits from the seventies. My first husband wore one (blue, pastel, polyester). My current husband never, ever has worn one.

    I love that photo of Thelonius Monk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were quite new to me Tracy. Perhaps some men wore something like this in the UK, but under a different name? Yes the Monk is terrific, and what a contrast!

      Delete
  5. That time period had to be the lowest of the low for men's or women's clothing....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. Sometimes I think, is that fair? does everyone think that about some period? But no, I think it really is true about the 70s.

      Delete
  6. Moira, you have absolutely made my day with these suits. There is nothing more to say, really. In fact words fail me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. but promise me that sometime you will Google Images 'leisure suit'. The joy is endless.

      Delete
    2. I've just done it. Joy indeed . . . I'm reminded of the film, American Hustle, all aviator glasses and safari suits. I imagine you have seen it, Moira?

      Delete
    3. I haven't - but obviously I must.

      Delete
  7. I remember a family party in the '70s where the men and boys of one family wore matching knit polyester burgundy leisure suits with white shoes (no platforms).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would love to see a photograph of that....

      Delete
  8. Moira: I had wiped leisure suits from my mind. I expect they will some day be valuable as they have all long been discarded. I believe I had one or more of them. My brain refuses to remember. I sometimes think some designers of women's clothes must dislike women by their designs. Leisure suits are one of the rare men's fashions I would equally fault designers. What were thinking of and why did we wear them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure there must be a photo or two tucked away somewhere Bill.. It is funny: some styles can look old-fashioned, and of their time, and wouldn't-wear-that-now - but they are still OK. You can still see what people saw in them. But leisure suits - really....

      Delete
  9. These leisure suits were demanded many years ago now fashion is Dark Knight Rises Bane Leather Coat.
    Thanks for sharing this post :)

    ReplyDelete