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The Golems of Gotham: A Novel Paperback – January 21, 2003
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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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Top customer reviews
Sensing her father's anguish, his now teenage daughter Ariel looks to the Kabala for answers. Always something of a mystic creature (for instance, she's becomes a klezmer violin virtuoso days after first picking up the instrument), she decides she needs to summon the spirits of her grandparents to help her rescue her father from despair. The ritual she performs (a variation on the one Rabbi Judah Loew used to create the fabled Golem of Prague) goes slightly awry, however. In addition to her grandparents, she accidentally summons a group of six additional ghosts, all spirits of Holocaust survivors who committed suicide, all writers who grappled with the enormity of that event through their art (their number includes Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, Paul Celan, Jean Amery, Piotr Rawicz, and Tadeusz Borowski). Even as they assist Ariel in her quest, the ghosts use their unearthly power to remake Manhattan so that nothing remains to remind them of the Holocaust (e.g. removing tattoos, eliminating crowded train cars and smokestacks, etc.). Doing so, they create chaos.
Using the Holocaust as a dark touchstone, Rosenbaum has crafted a seriocomic reflection on the persistence of memory and the struggle to find meaning in the wake of tragedy, examining the paradox which arises when one seeks to honor the past but at the same time embrace the present and the future, a theme especially resonant in this post 9/11 world. Rosenbaum laments the fact that as successive generations supplant their elders, time tends to mute the horrors of the past, simply because the events are less immediate. Over time, even something as horrendous as the Holocaust begins to fade from everyday consciousness.
A strange hybrid of light-hearted farce and serious reprimand, this work at once celebrates and condemns the human capacity and need to move forward. Charming and oft times laugh out loud funny, The Golems of Gotham is by turn serious and reflective. In the end, Rosenbaum successfully reconciles both impulses, delivering a novel that is as entertaining as it is sobering, one that provides new perspective on familiar themes.
I wish I liked it, but I just couldn't get into it.