mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

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The People of the Book & The People of the Tides. (59)

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon.

With half of scissors,
Zilberblat did kill Viktor.
Checkmate, Felderman.

This was littlewashu's pick for Eleven-Books Club, & I think it is probably my favorite of the bunch to date. I've only read Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay before, & I found that novel to be imperfect-- the first chapter is wonderful, but it is all downhill from there, & the second half of the book is needless melodrama. Yiddish Policemen's Union, I'm pleased to say, doesn't share the same flaws; there is an occasional flare of drama, but it is built in, it doesn't feel tacked on. That, & Chabon's abuse of metaphor is glorious. I'm frequently not one for subtly, & by combining the Chandler-esque flourishes of a hardboiled detective novel with the stereotypical wordiness of Jewish monologue, Chabon really hit upon a great framework to contain a litany of similes & metaphors, one right after another. Sometimes three for the same thing! Just great. There is a constant thread of chess running through the book, which pays off in two major ways; one, the "clue" embedded in the chess game is actually rather brilliant, & two, it allows Chabon's protagonist, Detective Landsman, to muse that the Temple is the "rook that attends the king at the endgame of the world." Yeah, like I said, the metaphors might not be delicate but they sure are great. I assume that the "turning point" of the alternate history is the random taxi cab that killed Alaskan Congressman Dimond, since he mentions it at the beginning of the book & again at the end. A lot of the plot seems clear once you start sifting it aside, but it is the particulars that need to be worked out. You can see alpah & omega from here, but how the string gets from one end to the other is a meandering tale. Speaking of, the boundary maven is my favorite, or really rather, the whole concept of eruv. Heck, the notion of a priestly lawyer class has always interested me. Really though, Berko Shemets is my favorite character-- I have always liked a re-invented character, & I've weirdly always had a soft spot for enormous First Nations characters. I made a character for a World of Darkness campaign once, a former sumo wrestler turned dentist with the "Giant" feat, that I was always sad I never got to play.
Tags: 11books, 11booksclub, books, chabon, haiku
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