I don't think one can review this book. My suggestion is to read its first chapter: if one is "ready" for it, it will blow her/his mind. (There is one...moreI don't think one can review this book. My suggestion is to read its first chapter: if one is "ready" for it, it will blow her/his mind. (There is one particular idea that is shocking and scary in its truthfulness, but everyone has to discover this for herself/himself.) If not stupefied, one might still find the ideas interesting enough and decide to continue.
In a few words, the first 3/4 of the collection of lectures is a psychology treaty of a very peculiar and non-traditional kind centered around one idea (the one mentioned right in the first chapter, namely, the lack of self-remembering). The last 1/4 of the book is of a more "esoteric" nature (i.e, the most motley amalgam of what is considered the traditional religions, and the antique religions, plus myths, legends, etc.) Some of these latter ideas are to say at least weird, but the authenticity and value of the psychological section is unquestionable (I should know, since I'm the poster child for exemplifying everything that is written in there.)
It is stated several times that one could understand this system of thought (or better said its value) only if one has made a terrible mistake, and I couldn't agree more.
"We can understand what mechanicalness is and all the horror of mechanicalness only when we do something horrible and fully realize that it was mechanicalness in us that made us do it."
Anyways, I intended to review this book is detail, but it won't do justice to its ideas.
"We think we are what we are. Unfortunately we are not what we are but what we have become; we are not natural beings. We are too asleep, we lie too much, we live too much in imagination, we identify too much. We think we have to do with real beings, but in reality we have to do with imaginary beings. Almost all we know about ourselves is imaginary. Beneath all this agglomeration man is quite different. We have many imaginary things we must throw off before we can come to real things. So long as we live in imaginary things, we cannot see the value of the real; and only when we come to real things in ourselves can we see what is real outside us. We have too much accidental growth in us."
P.S. You can find the whole book for free in PDF format online since it's public domain.(less)
******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read thi...more******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read this novel, which I might not have purchased otherwise. -------
Excellent, if chilling, testimony of the devastating consequences of drug abuse, not only on users but on everyone around them too. I really loved reading this momoir, its honesty, its sense of hope (even if this was sometimes deeply hiden under layers of psychosis, depression, or sense of loss). The way Chris Herren describes calling his wife "crazy" just to cover his own lies brought me to tears.
I really liked the fact that the author doesn't blame anyone for his problems: it was he who got himself in that hellhole and, even if he explains the social and personal factors which lead there, he never points to anyone but himself for falling so low.
I also liked the fact that he never says a single bad thing about anyone in any context. Even when he didn't like someone he would point to some qualities that person had. He would say: I didn't get along with X but I admired his work ethic. Or, at the time I didn't like Y, but now I got to understand what he was doing and appreciate him for it.
The style is not going to win this book any literary award, but in truth, it didn't matter anymore. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about substance abuse and its frightening impact on everyone, users or not.(less)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing w...moreThe Yiddish Policemen's Union is a story about uprooting, about the desperation of never finding one's "land," about the insecurity of never knowing where one is going to be tomorrow. I'm not Jewish, but in my opinion this novel tells the millennia-old story of a people always forced to run, always prejudiced against, always oppressed. Because from Antiquity (going through the horrid Inquisition era) to World War II, these people never enjoyed a pause in the their flee. Do they even enjoy it now, during the twenty-first century?
But first things first, let's get over with the writing technique that everyone talks about. Simple test: do you like the following sentence? "The clock on the hospital wall hummed to itself, got antsy, kept snapping off pieces of the night with its minute hand." YES → lucky you; you're in for a great ride. NO/MAYBE → this novel is about 380 pages of akin sentences to the one above.
I read lots of comments from people who wondered what was the purpose of the plethora of Yiddish terms? Does Mr. Chabon try to create a language barrier and hence suggest the idea of isolation? It turns out, the language was in fact the spark that kindled the idea of this novel. Here is the story as told by the author himself in "Guidebook to a Land of Ghosts," an essay first published in 1997 (yes, ten years before the novel first saw the light).
In 1993 the author bought a book published in 1958, named Say It in Yiddish (by Uriel Weinreich and Beatrice Weinreich). It was an modern phrasal dictionary, which he calls "probably the saddest book that I own." The issue that gnaws at him is the futility of this phrase-guide, since by that time Israel already abandoned the Yiddish language. From there to brainstorming about possible needs for such a dictionary, there was only one step. (He puts forth two speculations but, for lack of space, I'll mention only the relevant one.)
"I can imagine a different Yisroel (Note: a post-war equivalent of Israel), the youngest nation on the North American continent, founded in the former Alaska territory during World War II as a resettlement zone for the Jews of Europe. (I once read that Franklin Roosevelt was briefly sold on such a plan.) [...] The resulting country is a cold, northern land of furs, paprika, samovars, and one long, glorious day of summer. It would be absurd to speak Hebrew, that tongue of spikenard and almonds, in such a place. (Nota bene: so he assumes that they would speak Yiddish instead)[...]
But grief haunts every mile of the places to which the Weinreichs beckon. [...] By taking us to Yisroel, the Weinreichs are, in effect, taking us home, to the 'old country.' To a Europe that might have been."
It is the old country that the author attempts to recreate in The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and he success admirably. Because this world is not just a scanty pencil sketch - it is a luscious Renaissance-style oil painting (you know, the ones that dwell in every minute detail). Mr. Chabon "paints" credible humans with their emotions and personal histories, which are part of a plausible community history, placed in a made-up but once again believable development, subject to the bigger geographic interaction. No element is left aside and no effort to improve on the novel's world is too small. The author could have chosen to tell the story of the old country from a historical perspective, with much less time-cost and subsequent creative effort. But, by molding a contemporary world, Michael Chabon appears to point out that the character's feelings of uprooting are in fact still a painful reality.
This is not a happy story, but neither is altogether a dejected one. The relentless bereavement of the people who have lost their land is an ever-present shadow. But so is the hope that one day they will find their land. ------✁------------
P.S. At the end, the edition that I read (Harper Collins's ebook published in 2012) has a Glossary of Yiddish Terms, which unfortunately is nowhere before mentioned. Do yourself a favor and check to see whether your edition has one. You'll need it...(less)
******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read thi...more******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the GoodReads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read this novel, which I might not have purchased otherwise. ------
So far I was mind-blown by Sarah Bower's literary style. I read some of the reviews before I started the novel, but nothing prepared me for such an amazing writing. This is not prose - it is poetry disguised as prose. Very powerful visual images and exquisite descriptions make this the best example of literary prose I read in very long time. A full 5-star rating for the execution. ------
I finally finished this book and I really liked it in spite of being so sad. The literary style is so complicated that sometimes reading it felt like a heavy meal of which you don't want to have too much, but to which you return for more later on.
It is a slow-moving book but I don't hold it against it as some other reviewers did. This book is supposed to be the memories of a real woman, and let's be serious, how exciting really is the real like? We just go day after day doing the same things and having the same dreams. That is how this book reads: like a young woman's recollection of broken dreams and unfulfilled desires. And maybe the reason I liked it so much and felt that it rang so true was because I am in similar state of mind myself.
About characters: I read reviews saying that Violante was childish. Well technically speaking she was 15-16 during the most important part of the novel. How mature most women are at 15? I do in fact feel that the characters are well penned, including the males who are only secondary ones.
Finally, I would say that this is most definitely a women's novel - I doubt a man would care much about it. (less)