Exclusive: The First Lines of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue

June 6, 2012 | 1 book mentioned 7

coverWe’re already looking ahead to a number of exciting titles coming this fall, and near the top of that list is Michael Chabon’s new novel Telegraph Avenue. Much is now emerging about this new novel, set for release in September, but we’ve heard that it grew out of an abortive TV project of the same name, which was said to detail the lives of families of different races living in Oakland and Berkeley, something that is evident in the book’s opening paragraphs:

A white boy rode flatfoot on a skateboard, towed along, hand to shoulder, by a black boy pedaling a brakeless fixed-gear bike. Dark August morning, deep in the Flatlands. Hiss of tires. Granular unraveling of skateboard wheels against asphalt. Summer-time Berkeley giving off her old-lady smell, nine different styles of jasmine and a squirt of he-cat.

The black boy raised up, let go of the handlebars. The white boy uncoupled the cars of their little train. Crossing his arms, the black boy gripped his T-shirt at the hem and scissored it over his head. He lingered inside the shirt, in no kind of hurry, as they rolled toward the next pool of ebbing streetlight. In a moment, maybe, the black boy would tug the T-shirt the rest of the way off and fly it like a banner from his back pocket. The white boy would kick, push, and reach out, feeling for the spark of bare brown skin against his palm. But for now the kid on the skateboard just coasted along behind the blind daredevil, drafting.

Keep an eye out for our big second-half preview in less than a month, which will include more on Telegraph Avenue and dozens of other books coming this fall and beyond.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. I have a proof copy, and the couple of pages I’ve read so far have been pretty good. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it. (Incidentally, that ‘TV script’ tone Karl doesn’t like fades after those first two paragraphs.)

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