Oct. 30th, 2007

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Here's my Goodreads.com review of the above book. Sometimes I love to snark.

Depressing, downbeat, downright morbid? Ah, it must be literary fiction, the type of reading that's too emo hipster for me. Jim Shepard's short-story collection is on the National Book Award shortlist, with scores of rave reviews from popular publications and users of this site. To be fair, it must be very well written, because it kept me reading most of the way through despite my predispositions. Shepard sticks to certain themes: all his protagonists are men living in extreme settings (from the French Revolution to the site of one massive earthquake), with father issues, most of whom inadvertantly precipitate family tragedy (which leaves them wracked with guilt). We're talking excessive, nearly comic tragedy. The narrator of the first story is responsible for the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the mass poisoning of the countryside, and the death of his two brothers (sorry, Dad). I did enjoy the horror themes in a few of the stories, such as "Ancestral Legacies." And "Pleasure-Boating in Litubya Bay" had me with its small, contemporary, domestic, slow-motion domestic disaster story. But I'm glad I've read my dose of highbrow fiction--I'll have to go for more of an escape next time.
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Here's my Goodreads review--more a riff/comment, which is probably fine, since many including ([profile] miriam1978  and [personal profile] ladybird97 recently raved about it. I'm just glad I can finally start reading Opium Season!
What, you didn't read? A shonde.

This was a truly enjoyable book on so many levels: noir, alternate history, crazy klezmer riff on the Jewish experience. Did I mention it's funny? The central conceit is that instead of Israel, the Jews found/were loaned a homeland in Alaska--for 60 years. But now Sitka is about to Revert to the United States, and its yiddishkeit society to be scattered again. Against this background, Chabon sets a compelling murder mystery.

Chabon demonstrated his interest in these themes in his essay Say It In Yiddish which appeared about six years ago. Check it out..


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