Friday, January 30, 2009
THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION by Michael Chabon
This is not a great or even a very impressive book. It's better than the overlong and overrated Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which I didn't bother to finish, but nowhere near the excellence of Wonder Boys and Mysteries of Pittsburgh (or The Final Solution). (The Pulitzer jury strikes again, awarding Chabon the prize for what is, to date, his worst novel.) In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Chabon mixes two familiar genres, the alternative history and the detective story, without ringing any really interesting changes on either, so any critical or deconstructive irony is negligible. Chabon artfully appropriates the genre elements, but he neither transforms them nor uses them more effectively than any number of genre writers could have. Yes, the book is entertaining from beginning to end, but as the sage Sean Penn once said, "If you want entertainment, get two hookers and an eight-ball." This is not, contra the flap copy, a book that only Michael Chabon could have written. Wonder Boys was.