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The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 29, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Chabon's storytelling, in this alternate history of a world where Jews were settled in Alaska after World War II, is vivid enough, with inventive metaphors packed in like tapestry threads, but Peter Riegert's versatile voice makes the invented society even more tangible. Told through the eyes of Meyer Landsman, a police detective investigating a murder, the novel occurs in a strange time to be a Jew, as several characters ruefully put it: the special Jewish district will soon be controlled by Alaska again. In a bonus interview on the last disc, Chabon relates his desire to write about a place where Yiddish was an official language. The book is shot through with Yiddish phrases and names, which melodically roll off Riegert's tongue. He gives Landsman and his tough but warmhearted partner Berko similar yet distinct gruff voices that contrast well with the effeminate-sounding sect leader and the Southern-accented Americans who come to start the land reversion process. Riegert's pacing increases the enjoyment of this expertly spun mystery.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Does The Yiddish Policemen's Union live up to Michael Chabon's formidable reputation? There is no consensus: some critics called the novel the spiritual heir to the Pulitzer Prize?winning Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000); others thought it a disappointing aberration. As in Kavalier & Clay, Chabon explores issues of identity, assimilation, and mass culture, but he also pays homage to the noir detective novelwith mixed results. The New York Times called Landsman "one of the most appealing detective heroes to come along since Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe," while the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette felt that the work "came nowhere close to making the cut of a Raymond Chandler novel." Critics similarly disagreed about the writing, the convoluted plot, the symbolism of the Jewish-Native American conflict, and the controversial use of Yiddish slurs and caricatures. If not a glowing success, The Yiddish Policemen's Union nonetheless illustrates the rare talents and creativity of its author.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I must say, this book was very...different. Different in an interesting but sometimes difficult to read way. The novel is liberally embellished with Yiddish, the native language of the characters. There is a glossary in the back which I didn't notice until it was too late. I don't like looking things up anyway, plus the context makes most things obvious.
The story is complex and the ridiculously long names for some of the characters don't make it any easier to keep track of things. There is a lot to follow. This is not a light read, you have to be paying attention. I would not recommend it for an audiobook.
The two main characters are detectives in a province of Alaska to which they have been granted a 50 year lease. The main character, Landsman, life has gone down the tubes, his marriage collapsed leaving him with nothing to live for. He rents a dumpy apartment in a slum where he spends his non-working time drowning himself in alcohol. But he is a driven detective and when a young man is murdered in his apartment building, he takes it seriously. The book follows the complicated path to find the man's killer.
What I really liked about the novel was the language, not the insertion of Yiddish, but the colorful and insightful aphorisms. So much can be conveyed in so few words. I'm going to put a number of them in this review so you can see what I mean. There are a lot, lot more throughout the novel.
The lady has been in and out of the hospital lately, dying in chapters, with a cliff-hanger at the end of every one.
The blood from the back of his head has scattered rhododendrons in the snow.
He can feel his rib cage ringing under the mallet of his heart.
Landsman feels a numbness enter his limbs, a sense of doom that is indistinguishable from peacefulness.
I'm like a cash gift, I'm always appropriate.
I could go on citing these things but you've probably got the idea by now.
1. writing style - the ratio between metaphors and similes and analogies/ substance and thrust of the novel was grossly out of sync. methaphors etc distracted from the story. (and I'm a fan of the long, classic novel)
2. Offensively anti-Semetic and offensive to women. I'll skip the anti-Semitism and focus on the depiction of women. The women were depicted as the most generic satellites to the men - much like a typical Hollywood detective movie, even when one woman was the main character's ex-wife and current boss. I won't spoil your fun, but the post-sex scene description of the main character exploring his ex-wife's body is ugly and perhaps mean spirited.
Threw the book away.
Of course, I can't help hearing it now in the voice of the audiobook's narrator -- luckily, that's not a bad thing in this case.
Note: Amazon's little form asks "Which of these words best describes the mood?", giving options of "Hopeful, Dark, Nostalgic, Light-hearted, Suspenseful, and Thoughtful. The answer in each case is "Yes." (I picked "Dark," but ...this isn't a one-word-description kinda book.)
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