David Bowie hasn’t performed live in seven years, but he has a good excuse — he’s been reading. His top 100 books are part of the “David Bowie Is” traveling exhibition (currently in Toronto.) The list reveals that he’s a big fan of American lit, including Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Saul Bellow’s Herzog, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and more. He’s also an amateur rock historian, naming Charlie Gillete’s The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll and Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom among others. When can we sign up for the class, Professor Bowie?
There can’t be a novelist in America who watched ‘The Wire’ and didn’t think, ‘Oh my God, I want to do something like that.’
Peel away Michael Chabon’s luminous prose, and his new novel Telegraph Avenue would be a pretty lackluster book.
"That’s what Chabon’s books do, sentence after sentence, page after page: they force you to bring your game up to his level. Chabon is such a good noticer, and such an effortless explainer of what he’s noticed, that you, his reader, become a better noticer under his spell."
Early in the novel, for instance, we find ourselves at a memorabilia convention where a scuffle breaks out requiring a pair of private security guards to escort one of the offenders off the convention floor. We have all seen these security guys. They are large men, squat-built and neckless, their hormone-pumped pecs stuffed into too-tight white shirts. Chabon knows you know all this, and so his lone physical descriptor is that the younger of the two goons has his ‘head shaved clean as a porn star’s testicle.’
Dreams are the Sea-Monkeys of consciousness; in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. At the breakfast table in my house, an inflexible law compels all recountings of dreams to be compressed into a sentence or, better still, half a sentence, like the paraphrasing of epic films listed in TV Guide: ‘Rogue samurai saves peasant village.’