I just finished listening to the audiobook of Michael Chabon's new novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, a hardboiled alternate history novel set in a world where Israel falls in 1948 and its population of Jews relocate to a territory carved out of Alaska, a territory that is theirs for 60 years only. Now it is 2008, and the Alaskan settlement is to revert to the USA (or possibly to the native population, depending on the outcome of political struggles over its disposition), and in the final two months, Detective Meyer Landsman finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation.
In true hard-boiled style, the murder unpicks the seams of the whole rotten, corrupt mess, unearthing a political scandal that spans several continents, three major religions, a dead junkie messiah resurgent, and the resolution of Landsman's failed marriage to the woman who is now his boss in the Sitka police force.
I'm a great Chabon fan, and I think that this is his best book to date, better even than The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, as it so perfectly marries the deadpan ironies of hardboiled fiction and Yiddish storytelling, in a word-drunk reel that spanned ten CDs of bitter humor and insight. In this regard, the book is nicely complemented by a virtuoso reading from Peter Riegert, who hasn't been this fantastically understated and sly since his asides in Animal House.
I was raised by Yiddish speakers of some fluency -- and still have whole swaths of my family with whom I can only converse in my execrable Yiddish, learned through seven years of Sunday school at the Arbeiter Ring center in Toronto -- and I've always loved the language for its slope-shouldered, wry, witty flavor. It's hard to capture that in English, but Chabon really nails it here, and it merges so perfectly into the hard-boiled storyline that you'd think that Chandler had been written by Sholem Aleichem.
Link to audiobook CDs,
Link to hardcover
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, […]
Timothy Ellis’ galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates! We’re 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude! I’ve really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle’s space trader. Now he’s […]
Modern civilization has all but disappeared. It falls to a fearless, dedicated and slap-stick bunch known as Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors to help humanity recover. With help like this, you might be better off on your own! Benjamin Wallace’s first installment in the Duck and Cover series is a quick and witty read. We find America […]
Looks like all of your potential employers are hiring candidates with programming skills (which you don’t have). With all of the languages out there today, it’s tough to know where to start.With the Complete Front-End to Back-End Coding Bundle, you can beef your resume up in all the right places, no confusion necessary. This package of […]
Those of us who love music wish we could listen to it 24/7. But it’s impossible when we’re trying to converse with our friends, or when are swimming in the local pool.That is, until now. The KOAR Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset, now 48% off, has changed the audio game.Made with lightweight titanium memory metal, this headset boasts patented bone conduction technology to transport sound […]
It’s one thing to enjoy dinner at home and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with your best friend, Netflix, but it’s another thing entirely to make that meal from scratch and get that wine delivered right to your doorstep.But what if we told you there’s a way to make this possible? To keep your social life, […]