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The Golems of Gotham: A Novel Paperback – January 21, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060959452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060959456
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,937,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At the beginning of Thane Rosenbaum's imaginative comedy The Golems of Gotham, an elderly pair of Holocaust survivors, Lothar and Rose Levin, commit suicide. Their son, Oliver, a successful New York mystery writer already suffering from his wife's desertion and a crippling case of writer's block, is devastated by the news. Oliver's 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, comes to the rescue, conjuring not only her grandparents from the grave but also a remarkable group of Jewish literary golems (ghosts, in this case) who also killed themselves after a lifetime of Holocaust memories. Among the visitors here to inspire Oliver toward writing a serious second novel are Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, and Paul Celan. While Oliver writes feverishly, the ghosts cleanse New York City of any reminders of oppression toward Jews: tattoos, crew cuts, overcrowded trains, striped uniforms, and smoke belching from tall stacks.

The Golems of Gotham is quick-witted and a lot of fun, but there comes a point at which the reader might reasonably wonder whether this material is going to lead somewhere. It's one thing to drag Levi and the other golems (including Jean Amery, Piotr Rawicz, and Tadeusz Borowski) into a self-serving comedy, but to do so in a story context that invites, but doesn't deliver, contemplation about the relationship between art and memory is wasteful. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A half-dozen ghosts of famous literary figures return to New York to help unblock a Jewish writer in Rosenbaum's intriguing but undisciplined second novel (after Second Hand Smoke), which begins with the suicide of a pair of elderly Holocaust survivors, Lothar and Rose Levin. Their deaths prove devastating to their son, Oliver, a successful author who was already struggling with a serious case of writer's block when his wife, Samantha, left him. Oliver's 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, responds to her father's struggles by conjuring up an illustrious group of literary golems who committed suicide in the wake of the Holocaust a group that includes the likes of Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosinski, as well as Oliver's deceased parents. They quickly provide Oliver with the inspiration to write a serious Holocaust novel as they commit various acts of mayhem around the city, and their rehabilitation project coincides with the rise of Ariel, a prodigal klezmer violinist whose talent lands her a gig at a major New York venue. Rosenbaum's far-fetched modern fairy tale is entertaining, despite some sappy moments, but his focus wanders frequently, particularly when he goes off on tangents about the golems as they work their strange magic. Moreover, he never comes close to capturing the essence of the writers, and by the end of the book they are little more than literary clowns. The author's passion for his subject permeates these pages, but it will be tough for this book to earn an audience beyond readers who share Rosenbaum's devotion to keeping the lessons of the Holocaust alive. Agent, Ellen Levin.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I wish I liked it, but I just couldn't get into it.
Abby McGee
There is a tremendous lack of depth or realness in the characters and the plot is overly contrived and uninvolving.
Jon Bowles
I got a review copy of this at the library where I work, have read only 35 pages, and it is mesmerizing!!
Miss Peachtree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James J. Sexton on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having enjoyed immensely Rosenbaum's other works (Second Hand Smoke and Elijah Visible) I had high expectations for Golems of Gotham. I was not disappointed. Once again, the author explores the familiar terrain of love, fear, atrocity, beauty, and art. However this time, he does so with a depth and patience that permeates every page and far surpasses his earlier work. Although the surface plot of the book is compelling and makes for a wonderful read - there is another story (found within that story) equally compelling and even more beautiful. It is found in the narratives and in the simplest of asides - and speaks of the highs (and lows) of parental love and the beauty (and ugliness) of the city of New York (a city which is so prevalent herein - and described with such sweeping prose as to qualify the 10023 zip code itself as a main character).
Once again Thane Rosenbaum offers us an excellent book and a compelling glimpse into the realm of human emotional complexity.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Meiera H. Stern on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was almost impossible for me to get through. Not because of the complexity of the narrative, but because I felt like I was in the hands of an inept writer of fiction. (I forced myself to finish it for a book club). The premise of the book is interesting and indeed promising, but the execution falls dismally short of the mark of a good book. Thane Rosenbaum should stick to journalism. Although the author had some interesting things to say about a "holocaust family," they would have been better said in an essay or condensed into a short story (by a different writer). Clearly Rosenbaum has not taken the adage, Show don't tell, to heart--this book is almost entirely said and not shown.
Aside from the preachy way this book is told, there are myriad other reasons that it simply doesn't work as a novel. Perhaps the most pressing one is that Rosenbaum doesn't know any of his characters. This is a book filled to the brim (and beyond) with empty and flat characters! Furthermore I'm sure the holocaust writers he dragged into the cast of his poorly resolved, poorly researched narrative are spinning in their graves. Did the author know anything, for example, about the lives or personalities of Primo Levi or Jerzy Kosinsky? These characters and even the main ones were hard to distinguish, and even harder to believe and give a damn about.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jon Bowles on March 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's not quite fair to describe Rosenbaum's latest book as a novel. It actually reads much more like an essay. This is a message book...Rosenbaum has a rather heavy-handed message that he is bent on delivering. There is a tremendous lack of depth or realness in the characters and the plot is overly contrived and uninvolving. The reason is simply that the characters are only devices Rosenbaum uses to further communicate his message. Indeed, the characters are anything but fully fleshed out (no pun intended)...they as well as everything about this book exists for the sole purpose of preaching. Very uninvolving. The message itself is educational and somewhat interesting, but buyer beware - this is an overlong essay...not a novel.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on March 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Rosenbaum has captured some incredible reflection on the concept of suicide. While the book is ostensibly about the Holocaust, wrapped in a fairy tale of kabbalistic spirituality, Rosenbaum's story, is only a vehicle. It is the mode by which he transmits so many thoughts and feelings on why people should go on with life, philosophically, not just biologically.
Starting with several Holocaust survivors who committed suicide, Rosenbaum investigates the reasons why they might have done so. One would think that after Auschwitz, Buchenwald or Bergen-Belson, life would be a virtual cakewalk. Nothing could possibly be as bad as that again.
And as a general class, that is true. Yet, there is a small component of Holocaust survivors, who eventually decide that they can no longer live with the memory of what they saw, and eventually take their own life. And not surprisingly, a high percentage of them are artists, poets and writers, the people who would be most susceptible to feeling the pain of others and themselves.
In crafting his book, Rosenbaum illustrates many reasons to live. And he equally poses many questions about life. But in some respects, he does manage to find reasons to live, which are undeniable, if not difficult to accept sometimes.
As an added bonus, Rosenbaum's descriptions of midtown Manhattan are some of the best present day representations of the area I have ever read in my life. Since he teaches at Fordham Law school, he would be quite familiar with 59th St. & Broadway. The incredible precision of his pictures of Manhattan are truly picturesque and artistic.
Rosenbaum has succeeded in creating a truly wonderful work that handles difficult life subjects with great aplomb. It is recommended to those who think about life and the meaning therein.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lois Minsky on September 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This may be one of the best novels I have ever read. It is amazing to me. I find myself responding on many levels...

a mirror of realities I have never articulated but felt deeply.

Thanks.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "katherine_sandiego" on June 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this book in the interest of getting a sense of the work of some of the writers that Rosenbaum includes in his cast; I finished GOLEMS hoping that the rambling would led to a satisfying end. Neither of these ideas panned out. Reading Andrine's review, I was so relieved to read that someone agreed that book just didn't do anything interesting with its material.
Also, based on the little research I've done on the topic and the other, better books I've read that include them, Rosenbaum's golems aren't even golems. What's going on with that? A much better book that includes the concept and some satisfying background information on its history is Marge Piercy's Body of Glass (published in the States as He, She, and It).
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