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Michael Chabon on 'Telegraph Avenue'

Award-winning author opens up about his new book, his family, vinyl records and his writing style

Q: What did you listen to while you were writing Telegraph Avenue?

A: A lot of the music that the guys [in the book] are selling — the sort of vintage soul jazz and jazz funk of the late '60s and into the mid-'70s. It was the perfect music for getting into the mood.

Q: Has your early career success, receiving the Pulitzer, made you feel pressure each time you come out with a new book?

A: It's stressful, and anxiety-inducing, because I write books to bring pleasure to readers. I'm anxious to find out if that's occurring or not. I hope it is, but sometimes there are people who seem to not derive pleasure from what you've written. And that's a bummer.

Q: Have your feelings about your writing changed as you've grown older? Your confidence?

A: Confidence when writing has never been a big problem for me. I have sort of a disproportionate sense of my own ability to write. I think what's really changed is that at this point I feel completely free to write about whatever I want to write about and to write in any genre I choose without worrying whether my writing will be taken seriously — [even] if I write a crime novel or something like that. It's part of a general sense now that I'm nearing the age of AARP membership. I just don't care what people think about me or say about me anymore like I used to. It's very liberating.

Q: You've called yourself an optimist. Is it safe to say you don't fit the stereotype of the dark, brooding writer?

A: I'm a pretty cheerful person, I have a pretty positive outlook. That's not a boast because I think my wife [the writer Ayelet Waldman] is definitely a pessimist, and that's proven in many, many instances to be a much more effective, pragmatic, useful way of looking at the world. Her pessimism is very frequently borne out, and therefore she's prepared for it when it happens. Being an optimist like me involves a lot of denial.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A: I like to spend time with my four kids — my oldest is in her senior year of high school, the youngest is 9 — as well as cook, read and watch movies, probably in that order.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: I just finished the new Dave Eggers novel, A Hologram for the King, which I really liked.

Q: Are you already working on your next book?

A: No. My wife and I are developing a dramatic series for HBO called Hobgoblin, a World War II spy series. We gave them a script for a pilot and they liked it enough that they asked us to write a second episode, so we're working on that together. That's my only real creative focus right now.

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video extra

In this excerpt from AARP's My Generation, you'll meet people like author Michael Chabon who will always have a place in their hearts for LPs, 45s and other vinyl artifacts. When you ask why, they'll often say "They just sound better!" Watch.

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