Saturday, May 31, 2008
Talking to another Portis fan today I remembered that when I first started to read Yiddish Policeman I had a sudden epiphany. Chabon is the closest thing to Portis I have read. There is a feeling of "kindred spirit" there...some fascination with the ridiculous. A great choice to follow reading Yiddish Policeman is Masters of Atlantis. You'll never read schlock again.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I finished The Yiddish Policeman's Union over the long weekend. I started it a few days before the weekend, and I attempted to make it last longer, but it just would not. It captured me and tunneled me through that oddest of looking glasses and into a parallel universe of Jewish Sitka just before reversion. I lived in Okinawa just previous to that island's reversion to Japan, and there is indeed a surrealistic component to the temporary state of mind in a place which is neither one nor the other quite yet. In Sitka, the reversion has its upheaval religiously and socially, no one knows their fate. To be tossed out ignominiously into a cold world is nothing new to Jewish life, but the population had ignored the 60 year inability to make the Jewish state in Alaska permanent, and was confused and depressed about the coming abyss. Into this Meyer Landsman falls over a body in his flophouse of a cheap hotel whose identity and fate become an obsession for the policeman. Meyer has his own problems - an ex-wife he loves, a friend he counts on, and assorted characters who come and go through Chabon's brilliant world. His fascination with the chess pieces of the dead man's life becomes an unfolding story of a miraculous life, a Holy Man who found the modern world and its convoluted motives too much. I can't say any more because as usual, Michael Chabon has written a completely original novel which has to be read. Any fluid language of bookish critique would be exceedingly superfluous. Do I need to add that I think Chabon the most brilliant writer on the scene? I missed his book signing in Seattle last year by one day, and I still rue that I didn't change that plane ticket...