Hannibal V Constantine (hannibalv) wrote,
Hannibal V Constantine

I have just completed The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, and have come to a couple of realizations:
  • This is pretty much the only book I'll ever need ever again.
  • You're all getting it from me for Christmas or whatever other giftgiving opportunity comes up first.
  • This is rapidly climbing my list of favorite sentences in the English language:
    "In my experience, Detective Landsman, if I may, the people who worry about losing their edge, often they fail to see they already lost the blade a long time ago."
Seriously, I recommend this book more than I recommend oxygen, sunlight, or the loving caress of others.



Added at the request of jrstraus:

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a detective story, set against an altered world rather unlike our own. To wit: after World War II (which ended with an atomic blast on Berlin), the state of Israel fails in less than six months, and the Jews of the world find themselves confined, by 60-year mitzvah of the U.S. government, to the Federal District of Sitka in southeast Alaska. In the waning weeks before the District is due to return to U.S. control--an event which will see the millions of residents of the District forced to find places in a world that's not terribly interested in having them--down-at-heel police Detective Meyer Landsman is informed of a murder in the fleabag hotel he's been residing in. The victim was a chess prodigy in his youth and a heroin addict in his adulthood and a couple of VERY important things alongside that (it would be churlish of me to reveal). Landsman--depressed, drunk, and heartbroken by the one-two punch of the end of his marriage and the death of his sister--investigates the murder, against the wishes of his new commanding officer (who has a connection to Landsman), which takes him into Sitka's ultra-Orthodox community and brushes up against the U.S. government, as well as drawing him into a cabal working to make the desert bloom...

And I still haven't even touched on what makes this book really great. Chabon has a command of language that at this point is unmatched in English-language literature, surpassing even such lights as Neil Gaiman and David Foster Wallace. The entire book is written almost as if it was written in "American" (as English is known), translated into Yiddish by Babelfish, then Babelfished back into American. It's loaded with similes that are both absurdly overdetailed and 10000% precisely right. And layered on top of all of that is an understanding of human dynamics in both the large and small scale AND a deep examination of Jewish prophecy...

And going over this I find there are so many things I keep leaving out, like my two favorite characters and a nearly unimaginable international incident and the knowledge that the "who" of a whodunit is rarely one-fiftieth as interesting as the "why"...

Go get it, or, failing that, wait for me to give it to you. Books this good can save lives, by giving us a reason to keep waiting for even more of this greatness.

1Or wait until I give it to you.

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