Edan's Reviews > The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
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's review
Nov 28, 2008

it was ok
Read in December, 2008

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 show yourself to the world, could you please take off that top hat, and maybe that feather boa, and maybe that fake moustache, too? I'm not enjoying your outfit any longer; I'm merely distracted, and annoyed. Sometimes you don't need to describe the sky five different ways.

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Reading Progress

11/29/2008 page 30
12/12/2008 page 368
89.54% "I must finish this today to plan the book club discussion on Sunday. I am sick of it..."
02/07/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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message 1: by brian (last edited Dec 14, 2008 11:29PM) (new)

brian   funny and accurate, edan. perfect description of his style: too many damn accessories!

Edan Thanks, Brian!

message 3: by Julia (new)

Julia Glassman Ha! Well put.

message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I completely agree. His prose didn't bother me much in Kavalier & Clay, but here it was distracting at best.

message 5: by Alexis (new)

Alexis P Indeed. I kept blaming myself for losing focus, but I knew it wasn't really my fault!

message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex Strout Love it.

Edan Thanks!

message 8: by Matt (new)

Matt Like the moment in 'Wonder Boys': "Even though your book is beautifully written, sometimes it's very... detailed... what with the geneology of everyone's horses..." Like Alexis said above, I wanted to blame myself for losing focus. Glad I'm not alone!

Rene my feelings exactly. way too rococo for me.

message 10: by Chuck (new)

Chuck O'Connor Wow, I'm digging the genre and appreciate a writer who knows how to use style to entertain. Loving it and couldn't disagree more with this review.

message 11: by Edan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Edan I look forward to your review then, Chuck.

message 12: by sebby (new)

sebby I agree that this makes sense for most writers, but Chabon writes such incredible sentences that I'd make an exception for him.

message 13: by Roberta (new)

Roberta G Love your comment. Still enjoyed the book greatly, though. To pick up on your analogy, YPU is like that aunt who studied art, married twice and is now single, travels to Indonesia, serves you weird vegan meals, and plays Leonard Cohen music while talking about early Margaret Atwood novels. In other words, often incongruent, necessarily flamboyant (she needs her eccentricities to be applauded), and loveable and necessary.

message 14: by Ezra (new)

Ezra Farber I think the heavily stretched descriptions are a way of poking a little fun of that whole Noir detective genre, with the excessively verbose narrators. But in this case, the verbiage is gorgeous...

message 15: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I LOVED the elaborate metaphors. I loved that they distracted me so I'd have to stop and think about them. Because the visual images they created were exactly right.

Zhan Wei I was pretty entertained by it so I disagree with the review :)

message 17: by Chris (new)

Chris Ennh... I have to ask, have you read any Raymond Chandler, or Dashiell Hammett? You're not wrong about his prose being over the top, but ... that's actually intentional (in my opinion).

Chabon is writing a (sort of) period piece of Hard Boiled Detective fiction, and the prose is all like that. It's the genre. Chabon actually did a really good job emulating the style of prose (again, in my opinion).

(Hard Boiled Detective fiction, except of course for the fact that it's main characters are a Jewish Starsky and Hutch and for the fact that it's set in an alternate world where the post WWII fate of the Jewish people was quite different than in the real world).

message 18: by Joe (new)

Joe Schmidt Haha, yes! Nailed it.

message 19: by PaulESchilling (new)

PaulESchilling I don't think YPU is as over written as Kavalier and Clay, but then I've never heard of the rule about taking off accessories either.

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