Thursday, August 27, 2009

_Gentlemen of the Road_ by Michael Chabon

I enjoyed this book, but it was no Yiddish Policeman's Union...which is a hard act to follow. It is best when its characters are confronted with difficult choices. They are hard-hearted thieves and mercenaries...who somehow return time and again to help a noble childe in need.

With Yiddish Policeman's Union I was fascinated by the language; here, I was less conscious of it, which is not a complaint. I liked the langurous style of it.

A kingdom near Byzantium ruled by Jews figures in the story, but the issues of Judeaism didn't seem as prominent here. Perhaps that's the point: to make Jewish power an ordinary thing.


  1. What's wrong with me? I found YPU really ... disappointing. I loved the premise, which is why I picked it up; and there were definitely some great characters, and the settings were well-done; but I felt like most of those elements were ill-used. It was a real letdown for me. I can't say I enjoyed reading it (not that the reader's pleasure is the only requirement for a book to be 'good').

    Gentlemen, on the otherhand, was a fairy-tale- like romp...Great language for language's sake ("langurous"--definitely), not serving any really great theme (you're right about the "somehow always going back" biz being at least a little annoying), which could be a flaw, to some; but I liked it like I like Oscar Wilde or Tom Stoppard...who I've unfortunately alluded to twice in as many comments on your blog).

    I'm wasn't entirely thrilled with some gender stuff in Gentlemen, but I found the diction fun enough to be able to overlook that, most of the time.

  2. As a former grad student in American History, I found the world of Yiddish Policeman's Union to be fascinating. But whereas Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay filled me alternately with wonder and sadness at the lost era and troubled lives that it evoked, YPU mostly made me sad. The themes of loss--a world about to be lost, relationships lost, childhood lost--were so prevalent that I never really felt that anyone had a chance at redemption or happiness. Strangely enough, for someone who has enjoyed so much film noir, that impression made the book less enjoyable for me.

    But I did like both books overall.