Friday, June 5, 2009

The Yiddish Policemen's Union: First Impressions

My comments this week on The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon will be fairly brief as I've read only 53 pages. But please don't take my scant reading as a reflection on the book's quality. It's not. The book is, so far, a fast, enjoyable read.

Rather, my scant reading is a testament to how much busier English professors are when they have mid-term papers to grade. Sadly, my personal reading has been supplanted this week by a mountain of student essays.

Having said all that, here's what strikes me in the first 53 pages of The Yiddish Policemen's Union:
  • Meyer Landsman. This is the book's main character, and I like him. He's a homicide detective, and on the surface he's got a real Mickey Spillane thing going on. He fits all the hard-boiled detective stereotypes. He's tough talking, doesn't sleep, drinks too much, and has a failed marriage. In spite of all of this, though, he's still interesting. Chabon gives him just enough insecurities to make me like him. For example, he's literally afraid of the dark, and he even avoids investigating a dark, cramped crime scene because of this phobia. I've long believed that its characters weaknesses that make them interesting and not their strengths. Meyer Landsman is yet more proof of this.
  • The Alternate History. This book is set in Alaska in a fictional Jewish city that was established in the aftermath of WWII. The state of Israel doesn't exist, and Alaska is no longer a safe haven for Jews as they're being systematically deported. Usually, when I read books with alternate histories, I roll my eyes, but for some reason, I'm tolerating and even enjoying the alternate history in this book. I'm not sure why I like it, but I'll try to answer that question as I read.

That's all I've got time for now, as I still have a mountain of essays on my desk. Wish me luck.

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