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The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N Paperback – March 20, 1968

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Leonard Q. Ross (1908-1997), born in Lodz, Poland, was the recipient of the Freedom Foundation award and the George Polk Memorial Award. He is best known for introducing American audiences to a wealth of Jewish lexical and cultural delights. A frequent contributor to Harper's and The New Yorker, he taught and lectured in political science at several universities.


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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (March 20, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156278111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156278119
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on March 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having just begun teaching English As A Second Language to a group of Asian adults, a relative thought I might enjoy "The Education of Hyman Kaplan". The novel takes place entirely at the American Night Preparatory School for Adults. There under the tutelage of Mr. Parkhill, Hyman Kaplan, Miss Mitnick, Miss Caravello, Mrs. Moskowitz and an assortment of Jewish and Italian immigrants struggle with the complexities of the English language, anxious to master the language and learn about the history and culture of their newly adopted home. The irrepressible Mr. Kaplan takes center stage in the classroom with his singular logic in using the English language. Abraham Lincoln becomes Abram Lincohen, King George III of England is an autocrap, and Valley Forge becomes Velly Fudges. Kaplan conjugates the tense to die as "die, dead, funeral", and when talking of the contents of a newpaper he can't understand why he must say "it said", instead of "he said", since the paper is decidedly of the masculine gender. It's the Harold Tribune after all. This is a hilarious yet touching book. We are never laughing at Hyman Kaplan's linguistic foibles but with him, as we appreciate the struggles of all immigrants, those seventy years ago, or those today to come to terms with becoming Americans and learning the language that binds us together.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By David Dennis on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hyman Kaplan is a leader of men, an inspiring, eloquent orator with a true sense of drama. He forges his own paths, makes his own rules.
Unfortunately, those rules only rarely coincide with those of grammar, spelling and pronunciation. And so he eternally flunks the beginners' grade in English despite awing both friend and foe.
What moves me to write a review is what the other reviewers seem to miss: H*Y*M*A*N, for all his mistakes, is a winner of a character, not a loser. This book is true testimony to the talents of immigrants as well as their tribulations.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 1997
Format: Paperback
The Education of Hyman Kaplan is an almost lost creation of Leo Rosten, a book I discovered a few years ago. On the face this book is a comedy of language set among the immigrant students of an adult language school in New York. There is no doubt the Rosten has a flair for bringing out the hilarious subtleties of the English language, and the book moves so quickly it seems unfairly short. Mr. Parkhill's beginners grade classroom is the scene of countless battle and wars, where the students struggle against syntax, diction, and each other. Some of the botched quotes from Shakespeare are masterpieces in themselves. I had no idea a book of this kind could be such a riot, and never knew our language was so close to lunacy.
The hapless hero, Kaplan, provides a wonderful vehicle for Rosten to maneuver through the pitfalls and traps of the many idiomed English Language. However, behind the books' mangled metaphors, garbled grammar, and reinvented history, lies the world of the immigrant in New York City. The light-hearted episodes are interspersed with an occasional look into the difficult life of a brand new American. These chapters show the optimism and the will to succeed that Kaplan's fellow students brought with them to America. Kaplan himself is an emblem of endurance; forever doomed to stay in the beginners grade, yet never despairing of the always elusive verb tenses.
This book has only one "weakness": it does not cater to cynicism. It looks ahead, from the eyes of each of the characters, to a better time, a better place, with better pronunciation. This is a glimpse of the Dream of America that I had not seen, a different view that fascinated me. I think the strangest thing is that the book is never preachy. It is likely this is because Rosten wrote this book as a mature writer, with many other works under his belt. His tendency to constant revision has left this book a polished gem. Read, laugh, and enjoy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Political Critic on February 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book, along with its sequel, "The Return of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n," (and don't be fooled, those stars are important) is a beautiful work and one that I'm surprised hasn't been rediscovered by critics and readers alike. Originally published as a series of stories in a magazine, these stories were finally collected into book form and later combined with its sequel in a grand form called O, K*a*p*l*a*n, My K*a*p*l*a*n (which is now out-of-print, but worth reading if you find it in a library or rare book store, since it was edited and improved by the author, with new characters and stories).

The stories all revolve around a group of immigrant adults attending the American Night Preparatory School for Adults in New York City in the 1930s. Under the tutelage of the fastidious, but patient and kind, Mr. Parkhill, the book chronicles their challenges in learning the English language. This is in and of itself a masterpiece: Leo Rosten (who had to publish the stories under a pseudonym since he wrote them while living off a fellowship and did not want to let his professors know that he was working on totally unrelated research) has found humor in GRAMMAR!! He not only shows how difficult English is to master, but how irrational and arbitrary the grammatical rules are that we all, as students, desperately try to commit to memory. Moreover, he writes with an expert ear, hearing the subtle differences in the accents and common foibles of English speakers from various language backgrounds. The fact that these passages are life-out-loud funny (and not at all in the sense of laughing at any character's mistakes but at the English language itself for torturing non-native speakers so) is astounding enough.

But this is the story, however, of a true comic hero - Hyman Kaplan.
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