Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reviewing Two Books I've Just Read

Contrary to my usual, both these books are of the "best seller" variety, but true to my usual, they're both fiction.  I usually pick up books for free or almost free and then pass them around.  My usual reading is either very old, not the ancient classic type variety, just the type the libraries get rid of or "no return" from someone's old 2nd hand book store purchases.

True to form I didn't buy either book.

The first is almost a cult classic now:
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a 2007 novel by Michael Chabon.  In all honesty, I don't think it's all that great.  I didn't grow up hearing Yiddish inflected and syntaxed English, so the linguistic quirkiness of the book passed me by.  I probably took too long reading it, so it was hard to keep up with all the twists and characters.  I don't understand how it became such a hit.

It's one of those "what if" stories.  What if the nascent State of Israel had been defeated in 1948?  The author placed the refugees from Europe, and what about the HolyLand did I miss something, in a Jewish ghetto in Alaska.  Remember that Alaska, along with Hawaii, only became a state in the mid-1950's.

If I was to imagine such a "what if" I wouldn't end up where Chabon did.  I'd see terrible gangster fighting and manipulation between the the descendants of the various pre-state undergrounds, Haganah, Palmach, Etzel, Lechi and pre-state religious groups Mizrachi and Aguda, chassidim and misnagdim which all had their parallel branches in Europe.

Chabon hasn't a clue in his lokshen-colored story, just too parve or over-cooked for words.

The book I just finished last night is also a murder detective mystery but totally and utterly different.  It's a Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict, featuring Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller.  The only disappointing thing was that it was over too quickly.  I wanted to read more, but that happens with most of Connelly's books.  He doesn't try to be "too clever," like Chabon.  I like the "could be real" element in Connelly's books.  Chabon's fiction reminds me of the first Star Wars movie.  You can tack on both prequels and sequels.  Maybe he will, but I don't know if I'll bother reading them.


Kateland said...

I am so glad I am not the only one who wasn't impressed with the YPU. I have tried to read the YPU but I have spent the last two years with 50 pages to go. I found the book frustrating to read. It went from boring to compelling to dead boring. Nor can I quite shake the feeling it won't end well which is why I haven't finished.

Batya said...

Kateland, I'm so glad that you've confirmed my feelings on it. Maybe your description of "boring" is why I took so long to finish it. The Connely book went too quickly. I could read his books day and night, and I even had it by the computer waiting for the screen to change. We have a very slow computer.

Borehamwood Chess said...

I enjoyed YPU, and finished it off over a few days. Very well written. Might be because I am male shul going chess player.
You have to take the book within its own parameters. The bad-guy charedim sadly reflects some recent activity in that sphere (the Rabbi Tropper tapes, sakes of bodyt parts, the bochrim being duped into taking drugs to Japan). But the majority of religious folk come across OK.

Batya said...

Ants, I just couldn't ignore the wider implications. My husband loved it.