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Kalooki Nights: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, April 22, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416543430
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416543435
  • ASIN: B0046LUT8W
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British comic author Jacobson unfolds his mordantly unsettling but hilarious ninth novel in retrospect. Cartoonist Max Glickman has built an uncertain career lampooning his own Judaism, while his relationships have been restricted to "women with diaereses or umlauts" (including ex-wives Chloë and Zoë). His introverted childhood friend, Manny Washinsky, grows up to commit a ghastly crime (also shiksa-related), but in their early adolescence, the two boys get together in an abandoned air raid shelter in 1950s Manchester to work on a comic-book history of Jewish suffering, Five Thousand Years of Bitterness, completed years later by Max. The two meet again after decades, when Manny is released from prison and Max is hired by a TV production company headed by a Nazi sympathizer, in one of many caustic ironies, to develop a film treatment based on Manny's life. Paradoxically, it leads Max to real revelations about their pasts and their identities. The factual horror of the Holocaust is always close to the emotional core of this twisted tour de force—Max's fugue-like expletive-spewing first person reads like a British Zuckerman completely unbound—but Jacobson (The Making of Henry) tempers the profane with meditations on what it means to be British and Jewish. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cartoonist Max Glickman's Jewishness, never far from mind, is his continuing subject. Raised in a nonobservant household outside Manchester, England, in the 1950s--where his atheist father sought to make Jewishness less of a burden and his mother played kalooki, a rummylike game favored by Jews--he was educated on the Holocaust by childhood friends. It was meek Manny Washinsky who first shared the Scourge of the Swastica, leading the two of them to develop the comic-book-history Five Thousand Years of Bitterness, later published by Max. And it was Manny who would murder his parents, gassing them in their beds, a deed that Max at midlife seeks to understand, initially in the interest of making a film. Jacobson's work has been described as seriously funny, and this fits that bill, ranging from theological debate (where was Elohim during Jewish persecutions?) to Max's accounts of his three marriages (to two shiksas and one Jewess, all with umlauts or diaereses in their names) to the descriptions of his cartoons. Jacobson's prose is pure pleasure--concise, markedly insightful, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny--and his message, ultimately, is a heartbreaker. An exceptional novel. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) and, most recently, the highly acclaimed The Act of Love. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Raybin on September 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You're gonna plotz before you find plots here. And if you lack at least a minimal Jewish background,or don't much care a some modern Jews and their wrestlings with identity, lust, love, religion, and whirlagig confusions, then you probably won't laugh, inwardly and outwardly, at the stylistically marvelous feats of humor that Howard Jacobson pulls off in this uniquely entertaining reading experience. I think that the Washington Post reviewer is really off base when he laments that the book is old hat. I've read umpteen Jewish authors over the years, and Kalooki Nights is entirely new hat to me. But the cartoony title! Yikes! Marginally relevant at best. Finally, the book does ramble. But so does my Uncle Bernie, who, nevertheless, is really enthralling to listen to.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Kalooki Nights by the English novelist Howard Jacobson tells a story of an English Jewish community in Manchester, England in the years following WW II. The chief protagonist is the narrator, Max Glickman, a cartoonist who has had three wives, two non-Jewish and anti-semitic, and one Jewish, who also endeavors to loosen Judaism's hold on Max. Max's father was an aspiring boxer who became an atheist and tries to give both Max and his other child, his daughter Shani, a secular life. Shani marries a non-Jewish man in what proves to be a successful relationship. Max's mother is an inveterate player of a card game called Kalooki, with a group of other Jewish women.

The book recounts Max's relationship with his childhood friend Manny Washinsky. Unlike Max, Manny was raised in an orthodox household. Manny teaches Max of the horrors of the Holocaust. When Max's older brother becomes romantically involved with a non-Jewish woman and the parents do everything in their power to terminate the relationship, Max ultimately gasses them to death in their bed and spends many years in prision. Years later Max and Manny meet again, when an anti-semitic television producer hires Max to do research on a story about Manny.

In many ways, this book is a cross between "Portnoy's Complaint" and other early books by Philip Roth and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay", the story of two American Jewish cartoonists, by Michael Chabon. The book has as some of its themes the tension between secularism and traditional religiosity as options for modern Jews, the Holocaust and its impact on Jewish life and belief, and the relationship between Jews and non-Jews, particularly as the relationships involve sexuality and intimacy.

The book is funny in many places and insightful in some.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Raphael Rubin on June 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Safran Foer noted in the NY Times that Kalooki Nights "is a tragedy, and a work of genius". Indeed, it is a masterpiece. I laughed and cried from start to end.
Membership in the tribe (or honorary membership) may be necessary to absorb its full impact. Indeed, if any recent book emerges as a Jewish classic, this will be the one. Jacobson is now in the Pantheon.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By madcarrot on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I could not finish this book. It is well written and in parts laugh-out-loud funny but the plot was too rambling for me. As the previous reviewer said, membership in the tribe may contribute to one's enjoyment - as a non-tribe member, much of the book was lost on me. I debated as to whether or not I should keep reading, but finally decided to give up. I have a feeling that had the subject matter been anything else, I'd have liked this book as I enjoyed his use of words. But that's like saying I'd like chocolate ice cream if it wasn't chocolate.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Goldfarb on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
A bit of personal history: my grandmother played kalooki, a card game that the protagonist's mother played religiously. I always thought it was from the French "Quelque" and never had a clue it was spelled like this. I picked up this novel because I've enjoyed Jacobson's work, particularly Coming from Behind and Redback, and I hadn't read his fiction in awhile. I had no idea I was going to find out about my grandmother's card game.

It took me awhile to warm up to this novel. Others have compared it to Roth and Chabon, but the immediate and obvious comparison to me was to one of my favorite novels ever, Mordecai Richler's Joshua Then and Now (simplified into a little-seen film with a young James Woods and a not so young Alan Arkin and a very old Alexander Knox). In both novels, the father is a boxer with little connection to Judaism and the son takes his Jewish roots much more seriously notwithstanding marrying Gentiles. Each has a substitute for a bar mitzvah that highlights the sexual difficulties of adolescent boys around older women, a topic rarely discussed elsewhere. Here, it is the father with the greater connection to socialism, rather than the son in the Richler novel, but the parallels were so clear at the beginning that it took me awhile to unmoor Jacobson's vision from Richler's.

Happily, the novel is long enough and complex enough that it left the progenitor behind. As the focus of the book shifts away from the narrator, Max Glickman, and more to his childhood friends, Manny, who murdered his parents, and Errol, who left the group he led in adolescent sexual games to lead a seemingly conventional life, it starts to make you care about these Manchester Jews.
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