After reading this review of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union in the New York Review of Books, I’ve decided that I will most definitely read the book. Since it’s not very often that I purchase a newly released title, this is a big deal (I believe the last one I bought was Roth’s Everyman, almost one year ago). The review features a number of healthy snips from the text, all of which are superb. Here’s one:
All at once he feels weary of ganefs and prophets, guns and sacrifices and the infinite gangster weight of God. He’s tired of hearing about the promised land and the inevitable bloodshed required for its redemption. “I don’t care what is written. I don’t care what supposedly got promised to some sandal-wearing idiot whose claim to fame is that he was ready to cut his own son’s throat for the sake of a hare-brained idea. I don’t care about red heifers and patriarchs and locusts. A bunch of old bones in the sand. My homeland is in my hat. It’s in my ex-wife’s tote bag.”
Yeah, I like that. So did the reviewer:
And what are these Jewish dreamers waiting for, if not the Sermon on the Mount or the Communist Manifesto? They are waiting, we are told here, “for the time to be right, or the world to be right, or, some people say, for the time to be wrong and the world to be as wrong as it can be.” For whom are they waiting? The “despised and rejected of men”; “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”; “A bum. A scholar. A junkie. Even a shammes.” Have we met such a one? Well, yes. To the private eye as Wandering Jew, it seems to me that Chabon has added the superheroics of Kafka and Freud, the ethics of Maimonides and Spinoza, the politics of Emma Goldman and Grace Paley, the mysticisms of Martin Buber and Simone Weil, a paper rose and a magic bat. Landsman himself, abused as much as Jim Rockford and Jesus Christ, is the righteous man of his generation, the Northern Exposure Tzaddik Ha-Dor.
The only problem is the book’s design. The cover I like well enough (although I wish I could get this one) — but the spine (at right) is most troublesome. Is it really necessary to remind me that the book is “by the Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay“? Sure, put this information on the back cover — there’s really no way to avoid it, but I’d rather not have that peering out at me from my shelf, where the book would be stored just to the right of the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Lame.