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Zoo Time: A Novel Hardcover – October 16, 2012

2.8 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Outlandish, fueled by rage, very much like a brilliant comic stand-up routine… a comic novel of ideas.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“Anyone who appreciates strong, clever writing will find much to enjoy [in Zoo Time]. [Jacobson] is a confident, gifted writer who can make points with panache.” ―Houston Chronicle

“Funny and elegiac at once.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Howard Jacobson's prose is hilarious…this literary novel about the death of the literary novel sounds comedy's depths of sorrow.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Just because most of us don’t fantasize continuously about ditching our wives for our mothers-in-law doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent premise for a novel. …entertaining ― and biting ― to the final twist.” ―The Forward

“[A]wickedly funny satire of publishing…It is always a joy to read Jacobson's prose, whose beguilingly casual tone belies its meticulous construction. This newest work confirms yet again his singular ability to weave comedy, sex, ideas, and deep insight into irresistible storytelling.” ―Jewish Book World

About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson is the acclaimed author of The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), No More Mr. Nice Guy, The Act of Love, and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize-winning The Finkler Question. He lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781608199389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608199389
  • ASIN: 160819938X
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,406,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on August 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the book you write after winning the Man Booker prize -- the one in which you pour out all your bile, explore all your bitter obsessions, say all that you've been dying to say for years. It's the one your agent and publisher allow to slide by without editing or criticism - after all, you've earned it. Unfortunately for readers, it's the one that subjects them to a long, repetitive diatribe that begins as mildly amusing and ends as crashingly boring.

The plot, if there can said to be one, concerned aging English novelist Guy Ableman, married to the beauteous redhead Vanessa but lusting after her mother, the equally beauteous redhead Poppy. In the meantime, Ableman tries to think of a new book he can write to rescue his faltering career while bemoaning at length what he sees as the death of intelligent reading.

Nothing much happens over the course of the 100,000-odd words Mr. Jacobson has given us -- but that's kind of the point. The book is an extended rant about the state of publishing. Jacobson mourns the death of traditional publishing as it used to be practiced -- where the author got an agent with whom he/she had lengthy alcoholic lunches. The agent then had lengthy alcoholic lunches with the publisher and a deal was struck. Critics did their thing in the "quality newspapers" and readers did the rest.

Now, we are in an age of digital publishing, Kindles, reviewers on Amazon and book clubs, all of which Jacobson hates. He also hates the "breakthrough novel," young adult literature, books about the Tudors or about vampires and Harry Potter. I'm sure he not only hates this review (that thought gives me pleasure, in the best tradition of Jacobson himself) but he hates the fact that I can even write this review.
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Format: Kindle Edition
When we meet author Guy Ableman he has been battered by a reading group - indeed he is feeling generally put upon and discouraged by the state of publishing and, in reality, this is a brave novel about a subject that readers and writers seem to discuss endlessly. The arrival of the ebook, what sells (there is a scene where Guy feels he should write a novel with either Tudors or vampires in it which is funny only because it is true), YA fiction, the despair of the publishing industry, reviews on Amazon and agents avoiding authors in case they are offered a book they have to place are all covered, within the general story of Guy and his marriage to Vanessa.

Vanessa is a gorgeous, vibrant and talented woman who has an equally beautiful mother, Poppy Eisenhower. When they walk into the boutique that Guy runs, they seem to come as a pair - both with flaming red hair and almost like sisters. In the age of the Great Decline, when "the age of sparing a writers feelings was past", Guy has problems with his publisher, his agent, his parents, his brother and his wife. So he decides to write a novel about his desire for his mother in law, despite advice to the contrary. This leads to a re-telling of his relationship with daughter and mother-in-law, encompassing various book events and Vanessa's own desire to be an author.

This novel is a satire and so much of what Howard Jacobson writes about readers and the world of writers, is tongue in cheek. That is not to say that he does not deride things people hold as sacred, but much of the most biting comments are aimed at himself and it is authors he savages most ('me, me, me').
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The cover of my copy of Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time has a quote from Jonathan Safran Foer: "I don't know a funnier writer alive." I don't know if Foer's reading has been rather limited, but based on this novel, Jacobson is only mildly amusing and there are many living writers who are much funnier. So it's not that funny; is it good, however? In places, yes.

The narrator of Zoo Time is Guy Ableman, a writer of literary fiction. Guy is married to Vanessa but has no small share of unrequited lust for her mother, Poppy. This triangle is serving as inspiration for his latest book, while Vanessa is using her relationships to conceive a novel of her own. In particular, the relationship of Guy and Vanessa seems to be one of pure masochism: considering how she treats him with contempt (and he treats her with condescension), it's a wonder they ever married, let alone would stay together.

As with a lot of literary fiction, there isn't much of plot in this tale. Actually, one of the major themes of this book is the faltering state of literary fiction (and reading in general). Then again, the book seems to mock the literary world as one of dim-witted publishers and writers who are self-absorbed snobs. Few of the characters are realistic, making the book seem more unreal, and not always in a good way.

Maybe that is the grand joke of the novel: it is a parody of itself. If that's the case, maybe the book deserves five stars. If not, maybe it deserves only one. I split the difference. This is a book of occasional brilliance, occasional tediousness and occasional moments of smugness. It's not bad, but I won't be rushing to read any more Jacobson in the near future.
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