Reading Michael Chabon inevitably leaves me with my skin tingling, my senses rapacious and my soul restless with a passionate and earnest urgency to bReading Michael Chabon inevitably leaves me with my skin tingling, my senses rapacious and my soul restless with a passionate and earnest urgency to be awake in the world. I can’t underscore the vibrant hot-bloodedness of his work enough. I haul the most tawdry hyperbole out of the cellar that I can find, and it is lacking. My shriveled black heart blooms and mutates in his work. I have trouble looking people in the eye afterward because I am vulnerable and teary, a naked and painful love-creature bounding, swollen with both jubilation and melancholy. I don’t normally try and articulate the wonder of his work; I just give people his books, like a dime store apostle.
People familiar with Chabon will know that he is a shameless lover of genre fiction and has an alchemist’s skill for twisting and blending supposed low-brow conventions into penetrating art. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is an alternate history that speculates on an outcome of WWII and an Israeli war that results in a 60 year interim Jewish state in Alaska. The story takes place in the waning days of the Sitka Jewish state. 2 million citizens are paralyzed with anxiety over what is to become of them and it is a credit to Chabon’s story-telling that it takes over a hundred pages of embedding the reader into this world to truly reveal the fear. In this world, the Jews are not welcome anywhere. Mirroring actual histories, they are being evicted, without any options for where to go. The theme of being forced into action, but with no good choices to make is reflected in layer after layer of the actual story, a motif that frames the story in the chess conundrum of zugzwang .
In this fully realized world, Chabon delivers a hardboiled noir of a mystery that comfortably stands shoulder to shoulder with Chandler, Hammett, Cain and Jim Thompson. In true Chabon fashion, the mystery is a love letter to the genre and Chabon uses it to explore the rich themes that always flow through his work: love, family, father son relationships, identity, loss, grief, endurance, guilt, redemption.
We meet Meyer Landsman, a depressed, drunk, down-at-the-heel police detective who wants nothing more than to disappear into a black hole after his marriage implodes over a pre-natal tragedy (another zugzwang in the story). Unfortunately, a junky is murdered down the hall from him and the hollow empty death takes hold of Landsman and won’t let go. Soon it becomes apparent that the murder is a single loose end in something far larger, as the case is buried and closed, from the highest orders. Like Marlowe, or the Continental Op, this sets Landsman on an obsessed course to find the truth no matter what is uncovered and no matter the lumps he takes. It’s a pitch perfect story in this regard: the seemingly isolated crime, the hints of wealth and power being tied to the crime, the exhausting labyrinth that becomes more dangerous and more futile at every turn, the improbably large conspiracy revealed by the dogged obsession of the detective. Chabon braids politics, organized crime and Jewish mythology into an audacious almost hammy story that successfully juxtaposes pathos with almost keystone kop silliness.
Like any good potboiler, the story, despite being vast, is actually a claustrophobic embroilment of several interwoven families and their secret violent histories. The protagonist and the murder are catalyst for everything to unravel.
If it was only a noir, it would be a great noir. If it was only a literary journey through the painful hearts of marriages, families and communities it would be a great literary journey. If it was only a subtle and nuanced exploration of a speculative alternate history providing insight into the real world and its history, it would excel on that front too. But Chabon sets the bar high, and goes for the trifecta and achieves it.
The other thing that needs mentioning (unless you’ve read anything by Chabon) is his virtuoso opera of language. Chabon’s gift of language requires lusty, athletic, blood streaked metaphors to describe. It’s punk, not chamber music; it’s a cage match not fencing, it’s needy primal fucking, not lovemaking. In any lesser hand, Chabon’s brand of extravagant verbosity and punch drunk metaphors would be shameless purple prose, but he has an inner wizardry that transcends the rules and even the most jaded reader can’t help but become ecstatic.
in the right mood, I think this reads as clever, in the wrong mood, as precious. It's the only doctorow i've read so far, so i don't know whether he gin the right mood, I think this reads as clever, in the wrong mood, as precious. It's the only doctorow i've read so far, so i don't know whether he grows as a crafter of character and plot, but this book succeeds on exploring ideas and perceptions as well as having some pretty snare-drum prose in places despite being uneven.
It's a brief read and it's shortcomings don't get in the way of enjoying the observations on identity, belonging, cultural interaction, technology and economy.
I think, at most basic, why i really enjoyed this book is Doctorow's semiotic description of the world and it's people. There's something paradoxically peri-autistic yet hyper-perceptive in his writing.
This novel certainly made me eager to read more of his work...more
I was really enjoying this story in the first two volumes, setailing something like a pilgimage across an america turned upside down. this third volumI was really enjoying this story in the first two volumes, setailing something like a pilgimage across an america turned upside down. this third volume kicks the story into high gear and bumps up plot movement as well as broadening the scope of our heroes adventures. It finally occurred to me towards the end of the volume that even though their are sad elements and introspective elements, as well as some social inquiry, that swashbuckling was the adjective i wanted to apply.
If I was liking it before, I am loving it now. . .now just have to frickin wait for volume 4 to be released....more
This is the second volume in a five volume collection(some still to be published) of an original 60 issue run comic series.
While, due to the format, iThis is the second volume in a five volume collection(some still to be published) of an original 60 issue run comic series.
While, due to the format, it is written in episodic format, it is a novel in that all the movements weave a larger tale. I enjoyed the first volume, and enjoyed the second volume more.
It comes out more in the second volume how long our heroes have been traveling, how hard it's been and how they've come to know and rely on each other. The time span is great enough, that we, the audience only witness snapshots. The world around them is fraying into ever greater disarray, confusion, paranoia and violence. The story began as a governmental mission, but for all our heroes know, they may be on their own now, they certainly have no resources other than their wits. That's sometimes hard to swallow, but it makes for better story-telling as, on their own, their prolonged pilgrimage allows them to be witness to the aftermath of the plague.
I would almost recommend waiting til all five editions are published before reading (though there were trade paperbacks that might be found used) as it is not satisfying to become engaged by the characters and then put them on the shelf for six months until a new volume comes out. It's the kind of story you want to dig into and get lost in, and it also has enough intrigues and mysteries--doled out only ever so often that your turning pages to see what it is all about....more
This is an intriguing opening to a dystopian sci-fi tale. In a single moment, every male mammal on the planet dies, except for one man and one monkey.This is an intriguing opening to a dystopian sci-fi tale. In a single moment, every male mammal on the planet dies, except for one man and one monkey. It poses interesting and unique problems as an apocalypse story. it's not simply that half the planet has died. animals can no longer be bred for food, the human species cannot continue. There is a great vacuum in various infrastructure--the narrative points out that 85% of governing officials, and 99% of electricians and other trades are now gone, not to mention the priestly cast of most world religions. There are factions who want to celebrate this catastrophe, factions who see changes in balances of national power
It is only the opening volume in a 5 volume series (collected from comic book format) so its hard to weigh in entirely. It did draw me in immediately and i am impatient for the next volumes to arrive in the mail.
the story and writing are the appeal here, the art is merely a framework for the story--there is nothing great or terrible about it, so i suppose, as a "graphic" novel, that could be construed as disappointing, but there is more than enough story to make up for that....more