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J: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 14, 2014
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Praise for J:
“Thrilling and enigmatic...[J’s] subtle profundities and warm intelligence are Jacobson’s own....its insistent vitality offers something more than horror: a vision of the world in which even the unsayable can, almost, be explained.” —Matthew Spektor, New York Times Book Review
“A masterwork of imagination flavored with grief.” —Jenni Laidman, Chicago Tribune
“A fascinating cautionary tale about the paradoxical dangers of assimilation and tranquility.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable... Comparisons do not do full justice to Jacobson’s achievement in what may well come to be seen as the dystopian British novel of its times.” —John Burnside, Guardian
“J is a snarling, effervescent, and ambitious philosophical work of fiction that poses unsettling questions about our sense of history, and our self-satisfied orthodoxies. Jacobson’s triumph is to craft a novel that is poignant as well as troubling from the debris.” —Independent (UK)
“J delivers a gut punch of a plot twist that rests somewhere between hope and devastation. This is a major novel, a rare work that makes readers think as much as feel.” —Shelf Awareness (starred)
“Top 50 fiction books for 2014” —Washington Post
“Fine, you can call him the British Philip Roth, but J makes me wonder when the hell we’re going to have someone with the staggering talent that we can call an American Howard Jacobson.” —Shalom Auslander, author of Hope: A Tragedy
“J is a dystopia that invites comparison with George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“Jacobson’s fusion of village comedy and dystopian sci-fi is a tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly
“A pleasure, as reading Jacobson always is.” —Kirkus (starred)
“If you still read novels, Howard Jacobson’s J is a novel you should read.” —The Awl
“Mystifying, serious, and blackly funny... J shows that, for a writer working at the peak of his powers, with the themes of his imagined future very much part of our present, laughter in the dark is the only kind.” —Independent on Sunday (UK)
“Brilliant...J is a firework display of verbal invention, as entertaining as it is unsettling.” —Jewish Chronicle
“Readers...will find plenty to think and talk about in Jacobson’s remarkable, disturbing book.” —Booklist (starred)
“J is a remarkable achievement: an affecting, unsettling—and yes, darkly amusing—novel that offers a picture of the horror of a sanitized world whose dominant mode is elegiac, but where the possibility of elegy is everywhere collectively proscribed.” —National (UK)
“Contemporary literature is overloaded with millenarian visions of destroyed landscapes and societies in flames, but Jacobson has produced one that feels frighteningly new by turning the focus within: the ruins here are the ruins of language, imagination, love itself.” —Telegraph (UK)
“[J]’s success owes much to the fine texture of its dystopia... As a conspiracy yarn examining the manipulation of collective memory, J has legs, and it’s well worth its place on this year’s Man Booker longlist... Jacobson has crafted an immersive, complex experience with care and guile.” —Observer (UK)
“Jacobson...goes from strength to strength. This is a new departure: futuristic, dystopian, not, it seems, the world as we know it. But as we peer through the haze we see something take shape. It’s horrible. It’s monstrous. Read this for yourself and you’ll see what it is.” —Evening Standard (UK)
“J is a rare combination of moral vision and subtle emotional intelligence...superb.” —Lancet (UK)
“A provocative dystopian fantasy to stack next to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, J has the kind of nightmarish twist which makes you want to turn back to page one immediately and read the whole thing again.” —Sunday Express (UK)
Praise for Howard Jacobson:
“A real giant, a great, great writer.”
–Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated
“Mr. Jacobson doesn’t just summon [Philip] Roth; he summons Roth at Roth’s best.”
–Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Jacobson’s capacity to explore the minutiae of the human condition while attending to the metaphysics of human existence is without contemporary peer.”
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Although the time and place in which it is set are never made explicit, J seems to take place a couple of generations hence in a country whose geography and culture don’t feel all that far removed from present-day Great Britain. The society has endured some form of mass extermination or exile that’s referred to only as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED (Jacobson’s typography), reflecting a desire to bury all memory of the event. Equally ambiguous is the identity of the “aloof, cold-blooded” victims, whose “loyalty is solely to each other,” though the following description could hardly be more suggestive:
“Imaginatively, the story of their annihilation engrosses them; let them enjoy a period of peace and they conjure war, let them enjoy a period of regard and they conjure hate. They dream of their decimation as hungry men dream of banquets. What their heated brains cannot conceive, their inhuman behavior invites. ‘Kill us, kill us.Read more ›
The novel's beginning sets a promising scene. J takes place in a future of shared conventional thinking. Spontaneity and unpredictability are scorned. Jazz, wit, and other forms of improvisation have fallen out of favor. Art is a "primordial celebration of the natural world." It is meant to provoke feelings of tranquility and harmony, not anxiety or despair.
Prevailing sentiment in Jacobson's future is that we must forget the past. Conversations about the seminal event of the relatively recent past begin with "what happened, if it happened." The "twin itches" of recollection and penance are no longer scratched. People apologize without reference to any offense for which an apology might be due because random apologies eradicate and anesthetize guilt. Walls and monuments that commemorate war and suffering are gone, the "recriminatory past" replaced with an "unimpeachable future." Access to books (and therefore ideas) is restricted. Even "hoarding heirlooms" is an offense, although one the authorities will overlook if it is not carried to excess.
It is against this wonderfully detailed background that a plot fails to emerge. Instead, Jacobson gives the reader a jumble of loosely connected storylines. It is as if Jacobson put all of his effort into creating the story's background and failed to find a story that would fit within it.Read more ›
Kevern is the hero of this story and his life borders on eccentricity with moments of normal. Ailinn is the heroine, the beauty who caught his eye, but she has her own heartbreaking story or abandonment in childhood. This book had my attention, and then lost it. I really had to force myself to keep reading this book. The thing is that nothing really happens in this book. This book has flat characters doing nothing special. When I say the characters are flat, that is putting it mildly. This book might appeal to scholars who love their fifty cent words in descriptions, but I believe most of the population will not enjoy this book as whole. It is too easy to get lost in the language. It might take a whole chapter for a conversation to occur.
It is a book meant for mature audiences not because of its context, but more due to its adult themes. Only boring/dull adults can understand the acceptance of opportunities missed, roads that must be taken, and settling for “good enough” to get by. Although I didn’t enjoy this book much, I keep reminiscing about the characters, who as a dull adult myself, I can wholly relate to. How unfortunate. Body image, embarrassing family ties, abandoning lovers, suspicion and fretting about nothing much. I hated myself for liking bits of this tale.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pretentious and the story doesn't make any sense. Sounds all very "deep" but the reader is left wondering what kind of educational exercise and lesson that was.Published 9 days ago by Marianne K. Schaefer
didn't do anything for me. A long book to read that had a very limited plot to engage you.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
It took me a while to get the subtle humor, or even what the book is about. But once I got into it, it was an interesting read. Read morePublished 2 months ago by gcnp
Dabbling in dystopia can be tricky for established novelists. The works can come out weird, like John Updike's "Toward the End of Time", or inscrutable, like Cormac... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Peter J. Orvetti
I really wanted this book to get on with it, unfortunately, for me, it never did.Published 3 months ago by Alexandra Davies
This book for me is dealing with the question of how humanity deals with its violence, strong tendency to hate "otherness" and the other problematic qualities of human... Read morePublished 3 months ago by swcat
Couldn't finish it which was rare for me. Writing was fine but it just dragged.Published 3 months ago by jane o.