The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
To compliment a Pulitzer prize winning author for his mastery of the form seems a little like singing the praises of oxygen. When something like this comes along, there isn’t much needs saying. You just look and grin or chuckle or shrug and let it lie.
I’m not sure that Michael Chabon’s Yiddish is for everyone, but those who it’s not for are too busy watching re-runs of the Nanny anyway. And like so many other books I’ve contemplated reviewing after seeing them on someone’s list, this one is fits only the loosest definition of fantasy fiction. Goblins, trolls, castles, and heroes of old you will not find here. What you will find, and for my money these alone make this novel worth the read, is a wicked cascade of similes and descriptions so enviable as to be worthy of the (sadly hackneyed) adjective “priceless.” Chabon has cooked up for us a feast, and it’s a merry, intelligent, depressing, hardcore, hopeful and sumptuous feast at that.
And I’m afraid his prose in this piece might have temporarily Yiddified my inner voice, so bear with the word order. This book is essentially a detective novel, albeit one set in a fictional home for the Jewish people. After World War II ends and (in Chabon’s reality) Israel doesn’t work out, the Chosen wind up in, of all places, a temporary colony in Alaska. There are a few other alternate reality moments that flirt with fantasy, one of which I’ll reveal and one of which is critical to the plot. Berlin has been, to the satisfaction of many who believe in payback being a bitch, long since nuked by the time the story takes place. Another fictional element is that the U.S. intelligence agencies are manipulating world events in order to bring about some misbegotten idiotic results based upon a hostile and solipsistic misreading of the Bible.
Beg your pardon; that part’s not all that fictional. My bad.
The leading man, one Meyer Landsman, is a festival of flaws and possibilities. The characters are alive, dynamically three-dimensional, and refreshingly complicated. Chabon’s world and its collapsing-star reality you completely buy. The analogs of human behaviour are poetic, tenderly ironic and brilliantly designed. Chess is key, but not in such a fashion that it bans the non-chess playing reader. And there is a seemingly self-perpetuating sense of devilish humour that had me choking every other page. How did you do that in a book that has so much darkness and so much suffering in it, Mr. Chabon? Maybe there’s a megapoint in there, nu?
I don’t have much else to say. There are no nits to pick. I salute Landsmann, his compatriots, and their creator. Clearly, this is a writer for the ages, a powerful wordsmith and a uniquely gifted mind at work. Envy him if you must (I do), but by all means read him. I can’t imagine you’ll read a finer book in the fantasy genre. He gives Philip Roth, William Kennedy, and even the venerable Mr. Fitzgerald a run for their money. Black hats off to him.
Michael Chabon was born in 1963, in Washington, D.C. and raised mostly in Columbia, a planned city with utopian aspirations in the Maryland tobacco country. He studied at Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at UC Irvine, and has spent most of the past two decades in California, with brief sojourns in Washington State, Florida, and New York State. Since 1997, he has been living with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, also a novelist, and their children, in Berkeley.
This The Yiddish Policemen's Union book review was written by Jim Eaton
Have you read The Yiddish Policemen's Union?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union reader reviews
9.6/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
The Master and Margarita
Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious st...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side. Once the Oversight, the secret society that polices the lines betwee...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
The Bear and the Nightingale
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes pres...
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordin...
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of thi...
The War at Troy
The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler an...
The Golem and the Djinni
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, di...
Land of Hope and Glory
It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious...
One Hundred Years of Vicissitude
"First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed- up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departur...
Those Poor, Poor Bastards
The year is 1868... In the Sierra Nevada, during the expansion of the Central Pacific Railroad, Nina Weaver and her pa, Lincoln, trundle into Coburn Station with a wagonful...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own. New alliances and old feuds will remake the natio...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...