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By Bette on 06-27-12
In a Guardian interview, Howard Jacobson said this was his favorite of his novels. Its depth of character and ideas make his choice understandable. Jacobson's topic is serious and some of the details are horrifying, BUT much of this books is extremely funny, particularly in Tom Stechschulte's excellent reading of the author's witty way with words, ironic situations and ideas. As a British Jew, the author and his narrator "sound" a little different than the stereotypical American Yiddish humorist.
His narrator, a Jewish cartoonist, remembers several time periods, his childhood with friends and family, his marriages, his adult life with friends and his memory of reading about the holocaust. Although the time periods are jumbled, they are easy to follow because of the literary devices of repetition of words and themes.
For example, "Kalooki" is one of those repetitions; it is a card game similar to gin. The narrator at one point says that "not playing Kalooki is how I learned to understand I wasn't my mother." Other repetitions include his childhood "jew-jew-jew-jew" which his relatives thought was his attempt to imitate a train (choo-choo), which of course ties well to the story of Nazi transport of European Jews and the angst of his struggle with group identity.
Early, Jacobson's narrator explains that his parents are in the "in-between" generation, between those who want to forget (those who experienced the holocaust) and those who know they must not forget (the narrator). He explores the ramifications of group identity brought by being a Jew whether religious or not. At one point he says that "To a Jew there is no acceptable way of being a Jew. Every other Jew has got it wrong." So he struggles to understand his own identification, his judgment of Jews and non-Jews, as well as their judgments of him.
This book offers the opportunity to better understand individuals who struggle with being part of a group by birth.
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