Only four days pass between the opening scene of boys waterboarding one another to the moment when 10-year-old Gurion Maccabee and his army attempt to take down their unfair school system, but in the dense, frenzied pages of Levin's outsized debut, those few days feel like forever. Gurion, who narrates and refers to the text as "a work of scripture," sees himself as the hero of a yet-to-be-recognized Jewish holiday that celebrates the birth of "perfect justice," and recruits an army of misfits and Torah scholars. But nothing happens quickly, and Levin is as content to tend to the screwy plot as he is to allow Gurion to go on extended digressions about Philip Roth and any number of other topics. Between the hubris it takes to expect readers to digest more than 1,000 pages about a tween who says "the likelihood that I was seemed to me to be increasing by the second" and the shoving in of e-mails, diagrams, and transcripts of television footage, the idea that this could be a great novel is overshadowed by the fact that this is a great big novel, shaggy and undisciplined, but with moments of brilliance.
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Levin’s enormous first novel is narrated by a hyper, megalomaniac prodigy, a 10-year-old boy named Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee who has skipped grades and been expelled for violent behavior from three Chicago schools. He is now in the CAGE program for problem students at Aptakisic Junior High, and even more determined to incite rebellion, if not an all-out holy war. Gurion is tough, wily, ferociously fluent in Jewish theology, an avid fan of Philip Roth and Jewish humor, verbally pyrotechnic, and bizarrely charismatic. His father is a civil rights lawyer who gets trampled by enraged Jews for defending a neo-Nazi; his mother is a former Israeli soldier, a mental health professional, and black. Spurred to assemble his children’s army by anti-Semitic hate crimes and the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East, Gurion does not deny that he could be a potential messiah. Levin’s mammoth, riotous, Talmudic, impossibly excessive yet brilliant, mesmerizing, warmhearted, and hilarious work of chutzpah takes place over four feverish days but encompasses the whole of Israel’s battle for existence and the Jewish quest for home and peace. --Donna SeamanSee all Editorial Reviews
If you like The Instructions, I highly recommend Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle. Likewise, if you enjoyed Beatty yoPublished 3 months ago by SLB
My friends all have bruises from me throwing this book at them and demanding they read it. Possibly the best book I've read this decade.Published 13 months ago by Kevin M. Fowler
When I started this novel I had several misgivings and I didn't want to read it let alone like it but I was wrong: The Instructions was (insert superlative) awesome. Read morePublished 15 months ago by ConcupusAl
The physical weight of this novel is intimidating (if you purchased the paperback, like I did) but let that be encouragement and not a deterrent to begin reading The Instructions. Read morePublished 17 months ago by M. Toppel
This novel is one of the best debuts I've ever read, and one of my favorite reads altogether. You can taste the influence of those who came before him, but Levin's voice is his own... Read morePublished 23 months ago by whateverhappenedtoZeppo?
Second for me in my list for 2012. Clever, original and very entertaining. Good writing and good ideas. I loved it.Published on July 19, 2013 by Betty Van Dyck
I have just finished reading this book and I will save you the trouble, you have better things to do w/ your life than read the 900 or so pages of this book. Read morePublished on June 4, 2013 by Payam
The book is about teenager who might be a messiah. The book is great when it talks about Ben-Gurion's family and Jewish schools and when it shows his thinking. Read morePublished on June 4, 2013 by Ilya M. Rakhkovsiy