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The Yiddish Policemen's Union

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  42,024 ratings  ·  5,228 reviews
For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan pa ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 414 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by HarperCollins (first published January 1st 2007)
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You know that fashion rule where, before you leave the house, you're supposed to quickly turn to a mirror and then take off the first accessory that catches your eye? Well, I feel like Chabon should have done that with his prose, which is sometimes so ridiculously overwritten and boastful that it ruined an otherwise pretty interesting story.

With some writers, I want them to put on another accessory or two--please, would some bangle bracelets kill you?--but with Chabon I'm like, Dude, before you
Jun 03, 2007 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who "weary of ganefs and prophets, guns and sacrifies, the infinite gangster weight of God"
"I don't care what is written," Meyer Landsman says. "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."

The Yiddish Policeman's Union is one of those rare, rare novels of ideas that is also character-driven, and the people

When I think of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I can picture a complacent Chabon frequently patting his own back while writing this book. If he can come up with three ornamental ways to portray one thing, he includes all three of them in the book. He seems mighty pleased with his writing and probably believes in sharing his beautiful mind with everyone. He will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat with suspense, to furnish a leisurely description of the setting before moving on. Every litt
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4.75* of five

The Book Report: For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music
Mar 17, 2009 Lena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lena by: Moonrat
Shelves: fiction
When I first heard about this novel, I found its premise too fascinating to resist: it's a noir-inspired murder mystery set in an alternate universe in which refugees from the failed state of Israel are living in a section of Alaska temporarily loaned to them by the US government. At the beginning of Chabon's novel, their lease on this land is about to expire, signs of the messiah's imminent arrival are accumulating, and a dead man has inconveniently turned up in the fleabag hotel of broken down ...more
Jun 20, 2008 Kersplebedeb rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in Jewish culture and speculative fiction.
Imagine a crazy world in which, following the Holocaust, Jewish survivors languished in DP camps in Europe, were often still barred or discouraged from immigrating to the various "democracies", and found themselves pushed into emigrating to the Middle East where, through a variety of historical coincidences, they founded a new society based on dispossessing the indigenous Arabs and acting as imperialism's pit bulls in the region.

That's the crazy world we do live in.

In many ways, Michael Chabon's
My father's family is Polish-Jewish. My paternal grandmother was fluent in Yiddish, and whenever I see my parents they talk incessantly about Israeli politics. I must have read at least half of Isaac Bashevis Singer at one time or another. Also, I'm a chess player. I even knew the chess problem in question, and had read Nabokov's explanation in Speak, Memory of his thought processes as he constructed it.

So how would it be possible for me not to love this book? But my reasons for loving it are s
I picked up a copy of “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon purely out of curiosity. This novel was nominated for, and won, the prestigious Hugo Award. The Hugo Award is for outstanding science fiction and I have never seen “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” on the science fiction/fantasy bookshelves in any bookstore. It’s only been in the mainstream fiction section. Now that I’ve read it, I still don’t understand how it won the Hugo. True, it is an alternate history; but it’s a socio-p ...more
This is a book that I didn't want to read. Once I actually acquired a copy it sat mouldering on my shelves for over a year before I got to it. Having only read Kavalier & Clay and having been only mildly whelmed by it, it didn't call to me at all. Then, madness of madnesses, it was not only nominated for, but won the Hugo Award, even when stacked up against such brilliant scifi writers as Ian McDonald and Charles Stross. Upset doesn't begin to describe my reaction. How dare this dabbler in g ...more
1. Chess
2. Police investigations
3. Judaism (Yiddish, red cows, those little hats)
4. Alaska

I don’t know much about any of these topics. And honestly, only the last one piques my interest. Which meant from page one, it was going to be an uphill battle for Chabon.

And he lost the battle. I mean he was slaughtered on that hill.

Now that I have finished the book, I have negative interest in items 1 to 3. I am still curious about Alaska. Yet once it was used in the set-up, the cold tundra was tossed a
Oct 18, 2007 Deidra rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: noir fans who aren't expecting much
Had a pretty lengthy review, which was deleted when I made the mistake of changing the shelf. Yeah, I don't get it either.

Long story short: I still don't get why Michael Chabon is supposed to be one of the great writers of the 21st century. "Wonder Boys" was an enjoyable read. Nothing life-changing, but smart, fast, and chock full of quirky characters.

"Kavalier & Clay"....not so good. I am a fan of the comics industry, and I have to say the beginning describing it's birth had me riveted. A
Then again. Again. Again. I wake up this morning and see that even now, despite everything, not one vote for this review.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. What the fucking hell do I have to do to get a vote for this review. Just one fucking vote, so I can put the fucking thing to bed. Obviously I need a new plan....a cunning plan. Hmmm....


Then again, again. I'm still trying to say just how good this book is. So, I bet somebody the other day. H
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Is Michael Chabon possibly our nation's greatest living writer? Oh, wait, I already know the answer to that rhetorical question -- yes, yes he is. And that's because, more than almost anyone else working today, Chabon has the ability to elegantly enfold the elements of literature most revered by acad
The corpse with the extra hole in his head may turn out to be the least of Detective Meyer Landsman's problems. His ex-wife is now his boss (professionally, this time around) and she's just handed him a tall stack of file folders full of cold cases she wants him to solve.
A dark Alaska winter is creeping in and Landsman is sinking deeper into a shady mess that reeks of conspiracy and long kept secrets.

There's no denying it...Chabon plays well with words; crafting sentences of such loveliness, yo

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
Alex Telander
THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION BY MICHAEL CHABON: Michael Chabon is a writer that many other writers are envious of: he’s young, he’s brilliant, and his books will undoubtedly survive long after his is gone. Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay aside, Chabon’s writing seems almost effortless, but is pure craft and magic. Unlike John Irving, who plots out the complete story beforehand, and then meticulously crafts each sentence and paragraph to be perfect (which is why he ...more
Many people seem to enjoy Michael Chabon’s books so I was pleased when I finally had a reason to read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In the dark Alaskan winter in the city of Sitka; Detective Meyer Landsman’s ex-wife has just become his boss and has handing him a huge stack of old cold cases that she wants him to solve. While Landsman life may feel like its already hit rock bottom, he’s only just discovering the mess that he’s in; a mess that will lead to a conspiracy.

This alternative verson of
Inventive, creative etc. Most of the writing style is top notch but sometimes overblown. I particularly liked the conversation with his ex-wife when she's introduced in the book as his new boss. Instead of giving the Jews a temporary homeland in Alaska, I would have preferred it more if they made part of Germany the Jewish homeland.
Dana Stabenow
I wanted to be a good reader, I wanted to give it a good chance and not pick nits because it wasn't written by an Alaskan. But I just. couldn't. trudge. through the prose. So, yet again, I feel out of step with everyone I know, who all loved the book and demanded I read it. Sigh.
Will Byrnes
What if Israel had not come into existence in 1948 and another solution had been found, namely the USA ceding a portion of coastal Alaska for a temporary Jewish state? Now add to that a noir crime yarn set in this fictional state. What’s not to like?

Oy! This is a very slow-moving detective yarn, so slow in fact that I contemplated not finishing it. Chabon concentrates on giving family and cultural historical details in this alternate reality yarn. That becomes too much, particularly as the forwa
It is probably my own fault that I was disappointed by this book. I heard a review of it many years ago on the radio and hunted up and down the shelves of bookshops until years later I found a paperback copy.

In my imagination I was sure that this book would be the hard-boiled love child of Isaac Babel and Raymond Chandler, witty, insightful and with its collar turned up against the rain. The title promised an array of pleasures. The slog of police union politics conducted in Yiddish, a hint of
Emma (Miss Print)
Oct 28, 2007 Emma (Miss Print) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of speculative fiction and/or Michael Chabon
Jews, Alaska, chess, and murder: usually these subjects don’t have much in common. That's until you read Michael Chabon’s new novel “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” where these elements come together to create the core of this quirky noir story.

Chabon’s novel is based on an interesting conceit: What if Jews had not been able to settle in Israel after World War II and, instead, were granted temporary residency on the Alaskan panhandle?

The original plan was set into motion around 1939 by Harold Ic
I read and loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It broke my heart, which can be a good thing in a book. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a quite different book. Instead of historical fiction, it's an alternate history. In this timeline, a part of Alaska was given over to Jewish immigration just before World War II. Sixty years later, that land will revert back to the American government and the state of Alaska, leaving the residents to scatter.

But the alternate history, fascinat
On one level, this book is a standard detective story, with nods to noir film and at least one name-check for Raymond Chandler. The protagonist is a hard-drinking policeman who cracks wise and has trouble with dames (well, at least one dame), and takes an enormous amount of physical abuse in the course of performing his duties... duties which he often defines more broadly than his supervisors really expect. Sound familiar?

On another level, it's a science fiction novel, taking for its setting a
Ben Babcock
Michael Chabon owns his writing style in a way that few authors have the guts to do. His style breathes life into his characters and their surroundings. When reading a Michael Chabon book, you don't just feel like you're there with the characters; you feel like you're experiencing it as the characters. In an era when the novel is being dominated by straightforward, cinematic narratives, Chabon's excelling at creating chilling and compelling tales.

The book is steeped in Judaism (what did you expe
I love Chabon's prose, but I can't read it for more than an hour at a stretch because it's exhausting. His writing is very sensual; he wants you to taste and smell and visualize every scene. There are no throwaway, transitory sentences and no wasted opportunities for a vivid metaphor. Normally I don't have the patience for that kind of florid writing and admittedly it could be distracting sometimes. I was often pulled out of the story when I paused to admire the turn of a phrase. I can certainly ...more
Like a fellow reviewer, I'm not sure why this book won a Hugo. It's not a bad book; I'm just not sure I would classify it as SF.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union is the first book by Chabon that I have read. I resisted reading it because everyone was raving about Chabon, so of course, it couldn't be that good.

It might not be that good, but it's not bad. Chabon's style is like a rich, dark, chocolate pie. You know, the type of chocolate pie that demands whip cream or vanilla ice cream. You need it t
Stephen Theaker
I began reading this edition a while ago, then half-way through got entranced by the bulging biceps and voluptuous maidens of Savage Sword of Conan, Volume 1. Soon my time with the book was up, and another had already placed a reservation, so I had to return it unfinished - always heartbreaking.

Second time around, I had to settle for a large print edition from W.F. Howes Ltd, which rather embarrassingly for that company announces itself as The Yiddish Policeman's Union on the cover. It's an easy
I usually bias my ratings to a 2 or a 4. A 3 just says "average" which isn't much help to folks looking for a good book to read. In the case of the Yiddish Policemen's Union I was so torn that I ended up sitting on the fence. I loved the concept: After the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel, the Jewish people are given a "temporary" safe haven in Alaska. I was annoyed by the lack of an understandable plot. I mean there's a plot of course but it just seems l ...more
A decent premise based on an alternate history with a subtle ode to Chandler. The Jews have fled to Alaska in the wake of the Holocaust, forming a sanctuary of sorts while day-dreaming of returning to the holy land. One murder uncovers a complex criminal network of terrorists, corruption and plans for extreme mass scale murder.

Homicide detective Meyer Landsman - a classic noir protagonist portrayed through a veil of booze and literature is the cog that churns the plot. He's a broken man, beauti
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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was mad ...more
More about Michael Chabon...
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Wonder Boys The Mysteries of Pittsburgh Telegraph Avenue The Final Solution

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“Every generation loses the Messiah it has failed to deserve.” 46 likes
“It never takes longer than a few minutes, when they get together, for everyone to revert to the state of nature, like a party marooned by a shipwreck. That's what a family is. Also the storm at sea, the ship, and the unknown shore. And the hats and the whiskey stills that you make out of bamboo and coconuts. And the fire that you light to keep away the beasts.” 34 likes
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