Saturday, 21 February 2015
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon – Leisure Suits
[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, 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.
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.
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.