Chabon, 49, who split his time between Pittsburgh and Columbia while growing up, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.
His latest novel, Telegraph Avenue, is about two friends, one white and one black, who operate a records store on Telegraph Avenue, a street that seperates Berkeley, CA and Oakland. But when a new megastore is proposed on the street, the two friends worry about the fate of their business. At its heart, according to Chabon in a New York Times opinion article, is the question of the relationship between white and black people, one that Chabon said he explored at an early age in Columbia:
As I came to understand it, as a child, the idea of building the new town of Columbia was to make life better in America. One way the people who built Columbia saw fit to do that was to give white people and black people the chance to engage in the radical activity of living next door to one another, unrolling sleeping bags in the den for one another’s children, swimming in public pool water that had been equally tainted with the urine of those same freely mingling kids, touching one another’s hands, allowing them to be touched. On the street where I grew up, there were more black families than white. I tackled, head-faked, ate dinner with, teased, admired, quarreled with, lusted after, learned to dance from, had crushes on, watched television and eventually drank beer with black girls and boys from the time I was 6 until the day I left for college.
The success of this dream, dreamed originally by James Rouse, may be open to debate, but from the day I turned over the mystery of Darius’s palm, I was plunged into intimacy with black people, with all the unreserve and boldness of Rouse’s and my own small, visionary heart.
Although generally praised, at least one critic, the Washington Post's fiction editor Ron Charles wrote about his frustration with Chabon's long sentences. If you're interested in the book you can pick it up here.