Michael Chabon, native son of Columbia and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has a new novel due to be released in September called Telegraph Avenue.
In advance of the book, he talked to the Wall Street Journal about his Columbia roots and how they shine through in the new novel.
The novel is set in Berkeley, CA, in a world “where used jazz soul records are a form of currency, and where Blaxploitation stars make special appearances at sports-card conventions,” according to the WSJ description.
He told the newspaper the idea for the novel came from watching the O.J. Simpson verdict and reflecting on how his own life seemed at the time compared to his childhood in Columbia.
“The moment that I came of age,” said Chabon, according to the WSJ, “the time that I was a child, in 1970s Columbia, Maryland, that was a moment when a lot of things were being tried. Let’s try this, let’s try that. What if men raised the children, and women went to work? What if families included multiple parents? There was a lot of social experimentation, political experimentation, all kinds of experimentation. That was the age I came of age and Columbia in itself was an experiment. I don’t think that moment’s ever coming back. The world as I experienced it as a kid, in terms of race, and the companionship of black people and white people may never be coming back either. In the end I guess what I decided was to try and recreate it in in the form of a novel, so that I could at least live in it while I was working on it.”
Do you remember the early days of Columbia? Was it like Chabon’s description? Do you think modern day Columbia has lost those qualities?