The Mighty Walzer
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The Mighty Walzer

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  202 ratings  ·  36 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 October 5th 1999)
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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
Petra 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.
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
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...more
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
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.
I wrote the review for this book ages ago and gave it 4 stars
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
Meghan Rose
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
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...more
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...more
Lorenzo Berardi
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...more
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
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
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'"
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.
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
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.
This novel tackles a minority sport and anti-semitism in detailing the sporting achievements in table tennis of Jewish teenager Oliver Waltzer in 1950's Manchester. Aside from the novel's humour, there is little to entice in this ordinary coming-of-age tale.
I just could not get 'into' this book. After about 100 pages I gave it up as a lost cause. Half of the time I had no idea what the narrator was talking about.
Between the Yiddish and English terminology I was lost.
J.A. Carter-Winward
Jacobsen's wit is in full swing in this ping-pong playing introvert's tale. Very funny. Only Jacobsen can have you chuckling throughout and then hit you with one line that puts you into tears. Brilliant.

Never fancied this author for some reason however R4 is flinging us this so I'll give it a go.

BBC blurb- 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 so 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. And while the Ak
I had a really hard time with this book. It was talked so much about it being funny that I kept waiting for it to be funny but it just wasn't happening for me. I couldn't get into this at all.
I did enjoy this book but for one thing - it's written as Oliver looks back over his life except it turns outs he's only in his 50's - he makes it sound like he's in his dotage
David Hayes
Ping-pong, furtive sex, exuberant slang and the nastiest box of porn ever. What's not to like? The writing is rich and filling, and best taken in bite-sized chunks.
Jun 01, 2011 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: i won a copy on
Shelves: frist-to-read
i realy enjoyed reading this book i dont want to post no spoilers it was hard to get into at frist then it got funny it had a few dull spots but it was a great read
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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...
The Finkler Question Kalooki Nights Zoo Time The Act of Love Whatever It Is, I Don’t Like It

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