Our guest blogger is Matt Werner, author of Oakland in Popular Memory, on sale now at Diesel, Oakland. Visit Matt online at www.mattiswriting.com
Jorge Luis Borges wrote fake
reviews of books that didn’t exist. Michael Chabon has taken
this postmodern literary conceit beyond Borges. Chabon has not only written fan
fiction based on his own writing, but he’s created stores from his fiction in
real-life. Take for example Diesel bookstore in Oakland which was converted to Brokeland
This fictional record store has
replaced the independent bookstore from September 7-14 to correspond with the
release of Michael Chabon’s latest novel, Telegraph
Avenue. Chabon opening Brokeland Records goes beyond book
marketing. It’s an interesting addition to postmodern literary experimentation,
in that it raises the question, What happens when a fictional store you’re
writing about, becomes real? And this isn’t the first store to be created from
Chabon’s fictional work. The Escapist comic bookstore on Claremont Avenue in Berkeley is
named after Chabon’s comic creation The Escapist from The
After writing his Pulitzer
Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,
Chabon edited two volumes of The
Escapist, collecting comics by artists like Brian K. Vaughan
and Roger Petersen drawn in the style of the Golden Age of Comic Books from the
1930s and 1940s.
To put these fake bookstores and
books in context, Chabon writes in his essay collection Maps
Legends about creating realities that don’t exist, and he
references Jorge Luis Borges when coming across mysterious book called Say
it in Yiddish. Borges writes in his essay, Kafka and His Precursors,
“The fact is that each writer creates his precursors. His work modifies our
conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” How this quote relates
to The Escapist fan fiction is that if a reader who first reads The Escapist
comic books and then reads The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
may think that these comics were created first, and Chabon later wrote about
these in his novel (when the opposite is true).
Moreover, because Brokeland Records
opened on September 7, four days before the release of Telegraph Avenue,
a tourist visiting Oakland and seeing the record store and later reading Chabon’s
Telegraph Avenue could think the record store predates the novel (when
the opposite is true).
Or instead of Borges, perhaps Chabon
was inspired to set up this fictional storefront from a more local source: Dave
Eggers. Eggers created the 826 Valencia Pirate Store in 2002 to compete with “Captain Rick’s Booty Cove,”
an imagine a megastore of pirate supplies on the other side of San Francisco.
Eggers created this because the 826 Valencia Writing Center building was zoned for retail, and Eggers needed to
sell something in the space. This spawned the trend of where each 826 tutoring
center has a fake storefront, like the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., and the Bigfoot Research Center in Boston.
And coincidentally, the September 12 book release party at Brokeland Records (née
Diesel bookstore) was a benefit for the 826 Valencia Writing Center. It will be
interesting if this record store--open for one week to promote the
book--inspires a local business owner to create a permanent Brokeland Records,
similar to The Escapist comic bookstore. Perhaps one day, an entire street
could be populated with stores from Chabon’s literary works!
By Matt Werner
Author of Papers
Reality and Oakland
Email Matt at editor[at]thoughtpublishing.org.