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The Mighty Walzer

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  294 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
From the beginning Oliver Walzer is a natural--at ping-pong. Even with his improvised bat (the Collins Classic edition of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde)" he can chop, flick, half-volley like a champion. At sex he is not a natural, being shy and frightened of women, but with tuition from Sheeny Waxman, fellow member of the Akiva Social Club Table Tennis team, his game improves. A ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published August 26th 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 805)
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Petar X
This is a rollicking great novel brilliantly written and deserves a really great review not just one sentence. Northern British Jews without much money trying to make it big in the world and succeeding in very small ways.
Jul 30, 2011 Charlie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received The Mighty Walzer for early review and had a tough time getting into it. It was well-written, but just didn't capture my attention. I was having flashbacks to all the novels I was assigned to read for English Literature critical analysis class. You know, the ones that are shining examples of literature, grammar, sentence structure, tone, era, voice but some how manage to be the most boring books on the planet. Yes, I could write a term paper on the book and can appreciate its literar ...more
Michael Bennett
The Mighty Walzer is a book about love, sex, and ping pong in Manchester; written with Jacobson's witty wordplay, wry humour, and abundant energy. An excellent, funny, engaging book; I would recommend this to fans of early Philip Roth, some of John Irving, Peter Carey, or Gary Shteyngart. Well worth a read especially if you liked any of his other work. I would also recommend Kalooki Nights, and of course Booker-winning The Finkler Question (which, despite all the hullabaloo is not really a comic ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Vicki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Howard Jacobson is a very funny man; a British man who is Jewish, or vice versa, I suppose. He has written this delightful, yet poignant, coming of age novel featuring Oliver Walzer as the protagonist and the narrator. The Mighty Walzer is a nickname Oliver Walzer deprecatingly gives himself as he looks at his life from the far end of the experience.

He begins with a laugh outloud funny description of his parents and both the maternal and paternal sides of the family. Both sides have very defini
Dec 27, 2012 Bookslut rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oddball
This was different than I thought. When I described this book to my husband, he said 'I feel like you've been looking your whole life for this book, like it was made for you'. And I had to agree. It was like the nerdy anthem that could become my theme song, a book devoted exclusively to ping pong--I even dug through my library-edition bookmarks collection to find the very nerdiest bookmark I owned to use while I read this book. And then it turned out be more of a coming-of-age story with ping po ...more
Coming of age story of Oliver Walzer, descended from Jews who emigrated from Poland to Manchester and who eked out a living by their wits. Oliver is shy as a young boy and comes out of his shell by becoming a ping pong player extraordinaire and befriending his teammates who teach him of life. Narrated by Oliver who seems to always thwart himself, the bright star that refuses to shine - in fact insures that it won't shine. the story is laced with lots of Yiddish slang, a good bit of it not for po ...more
Dead John Williams
Another disappointment. This could've been really good but it didn't really go anywhere and it took a long time not to get there. A book about a young man with a conceit about himself which I thought proved unfounded. One of the biggest frustrations with this book was the use of many words in another language either Yiddish or Polish or maybe German or maybe something else I don't know. I don't have a problem with writers using the occasional word from another language if it clarifies their mean ...more
The theme of ping-pong threads through this story. But, in its way, it is peripheral to the narrative, much the same way that cricket is peripheral to Another Country. What we get is the story of a young boy, growing up both bound to and afflicted by his people. Family, Judaism (or the repudiation of it), the old country or the neighborhood are inextricable from who and what Oliver Walzer is. Delightful or repugnant personalities in the way of his friends, enemies, opponents, family and in-laws ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good, and the most superb ping pong novel that I have ever read. Better than _Finkler_ but not as good as _Kalooki_, on the Jacobsen-meter.
Nikolai Stavrogin
Mar 08, 2016 Nikolai Stavrogin marked it as non-finished  ·  review of another edition
ამისთანა მწერალი მეორე არ დეიარება! :დ
Deric Shaw
I commenced reading this book as a temporary respite from undertaking book four of `Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire.Obviously much lighter reading although, having almost finished it, I still can`t decide whether its a true autobiography, a novel or a combination of the two.The fact there is a strong affinity with table tennis (or ping pong as Jacobson insists on calling it)should not put off those who have no knowledge or interest in the game. It is a humorous powerful story of a young man ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Meghan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot to almost like in The Might Walzer and it's a novel I tried my darndest to like as well, but in the end I just couldn't make the leap. It's just too rambling, too random, and too full of subplots that never seem to go anywhere. The protagonist is bland. He's not likeable enough to root for, not dislikeable enough that you're waiting for his comeuppance. He's just there. The situations he's in just happen. There's really no narrative thrust throughout the novel, just a lot of "and t ...more
Sep 08, 2012 Alec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a comedy, in the sense that sometimes it makes you laugh. If you want to get all genre-theory about it, though, there’s nothing comic here at all. This is a melancholy maturation tale, a gentle, sad trip through the narrator’s adolescence and where it took him. This is humour as humanity, as a defence against the dark.

Oliver Walzer is a quiet, withdrawn child with a streak of grandeur. He quivers through childhood in a series of worries and disappointments until he discovers ping-pong, a
Ronald Fischman
Originally posted on my blog

Ollie Walzer grows to dominate the Manchester ping-pong scene. Nothing special there, except that he's twelve years old. His people escaped a dreary existence as beet farmers on the Bug and Dniester valley in the Ukraine. The men - we'd call them luftmentshen, transliterated in Yiddish and not German, meaning people with stars in their eyes because their heads are in the clouds. The women - trapped, waiting for men to notice them, w
Lorenzo Berardi
Jan 05, 2012 Lorenzo Berardi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, 2012
Well, call me derivative or simply lazy, but this novel really reminded me of "Under the Frog" by Tibor Fischer which I read a few months ago.

Both books pretend to revolve around the exotic wonders of a sport half-unknown to the British audience (basketball there, ping-pong here) and are set in the 1950s and both eventually take a long detour somewhere else.

Whereas Fischer aimed a bit too high with his sketch of Hungary and the 1958 Revolution, Jacobson decided to cope with a more familiar terri
Jul 11, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.
Didn't finish it. About quarter way through I was struggling but admiring of the craft. By halfway through (and when it was due back at the library) I was actively disliking it and decided it was time to call it quits.
Jan 07, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I wanted to read this because Howard Jacobson's "The Finkler Question" had just won the Booker Prize and because this novel was set in the world of ping-pong in Great Britain in the '50s/'60s. It's a comic literary coming-of-age story about a young Jewish boy who dreams of ping-pong glory. And getting his beautiful young female partner in the backseat of a car. Funny, touching, and beautifully written. Here's my interview with Jacobson, in advance of his appearance in L.A. last year. http://pedr ...more
Jan 23, 2015 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very proud of this wonderful author from my home town for capturing the spirit of a community
Jul 22, 2012 Kelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish this book. Another loser from the list of award winners of the Wodehouse Award for Humorous Fiction. This one has some funny moments but is so gloomy and sex-obsessed I gave it up. I ask again, who is choosing the winners of this award? I add the list of winners of this award to Pulitzer and Booker winners and label as follows: approach with extreme caution. I have read some amazing books from each category but chances are even better I will find the award-winning books completely ...more
May 31, 2011 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of the book was so funny. The middle was very dull. The end section was deep, meaningful and moving. I nearly stopped during the mid section. And now I want to read another of his books. Jacobson does indeed use alot of Yiddish that I am unfamiliar with, and that makes the read uncomfortable at times. I think in general all of his books could be 1/3 of their length and be great. He seems to go on too long at some point in his writing.
J. Ewbank
This book by Howard Jacobson was one that I read in a fairly quick time and enjoyed. It takes a male from before puberty through adulthood. Some of the adolescent events are very believable etc. The family portraits are believable also. The plot does not always follow a straight line for me but I found the book interesting to read.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
Jun 19, 2012 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Young man's coming of age story set in mid-twentieth century rural England. The promise of fantastic ping pong exploits was enough to get my started, but the Mighty Walzer, it turned out, was no Forrest Gump. Well written, but I just did get the point. I enjoyed the narrative and ramp-up of the first half, but didn't really see the significance or value of how the lives of the characters weirdly went.
Stephanie W
Some ping pong and some sexuality. An amusing read without much substance and a bit too much yiddish.
Not my favorite Jacobson book, but pretty good. Mostly it suffered from being read during a busy time--hard to enjoy anything when you're only able to read 4-5 pages a day. Ollie Walzer is a real stinker as a teenager, and this is his story. Very much about growing up Jewish in England mid-century--all the Yiddish is fun, and lots of angst.
Oct 15, 2012 Arjen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with the Finkler Question, this novel is also a weighty tale of a Yiddish immigrant family… a Polish one in Manchester this time. The book heaves under Yiddish expressions, spinster aunts, rancid teenagers, imploding businesses and lots of ping pong matches Jacobson has a gift for bringing his characters to life: bleak and awkward.
Apr 11, 2011 Steve marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
See the Weekend Edition of Saturday, 2 April 2011, interview with the author.
Listened to the story while taking Gunnar to Gillshire Kennels prior to my PetroSkills trip to Houston. Reawakened my interest in ping pong. Need to buy a table.
Oct 06, 2009 Noel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The great unwashed.
I enjoyed the book when i read it a few years back, great characters in a tale of growing up in Jewish Manchester.The not to often explored sport of table tennis and the rivalry it creates are the backdrop of Jacobson's novel, the cast of characters are well drawn in this funny and moving story.
Aug 27, 2010 Laurie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very Jewish and full of Yiddish words and British slang words that make it hard to follow at times. Although the Jewish humor slant can bring some smiles, and the writing is good, the book is sad and depressing and, I felt, the main character hard to believe and connect to.
Harry Rutherford
Dec 17, 2011 Harry Rutherford rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport
Jacobson's novel about a Jewish boy growing up playing competitive table tennis in Manchester in the 50s. It's at least somewhat autobiographical in its outlines; it's also genuinely funny, poignant, and very atmospheric about a Jewish, working class, Northern world.
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Retrospective assessment 1 4 Jan 10, 2013 11:46AM  
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Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England, and educated at Cambridge. His many novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Who’s Sorry Now? and Kalooki Nights (both longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), and, most recently, The Act of Love. Jacobson is also a respected critic and broadcaster, and writes a weekly column for the Independent. He lives in ...more
More about Howard Jacobson...

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