Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Yiddish Policemans Union 

By Michael Chabon
HarperCollins (May, $26.95)

Michael Chabon loves to shoehorn his outsized imagination into the conventions of whatever genre catches his fancy, and here he decided the hardboiled detective novel was in need of a thorough postmodern frisking. He starts with a bit of history-trivia detritus — that Alaska was once considered as a possible locale for a Jewish homeland — and then whisks us into the town of Sitka, an imaginary tundra of bitter weather and embittered Jews. His Marlow is Meyer Landsman, a grumpy alcoholic policeman obsessed with solving a nasty, tip-of-the-iceberg murder. He's also facing the Reversion, when after 60 years of neglect Alaska will regain control of the broken-down little world of Sitka, forcing the refugees back out into the wilds of history. Chabon (and Landsman) has a lot on his plate here already, what with religious identity, a looming apocalypse, substance abuse, black comedy and dealings between Landsman and his lovely former missus (who is also the cop's boss). The whole thing gets a little more unwieldy than either the writer, the policeman, or the reader can be expected to handily manage. All the clever Yiddish tough-guy talk gets a little repetitive, too. In other words, there's a lot of snow piling up on the A-frame roof by the end, and Chabon doesn't rock the sprawl as well as he did in the Pulitzer-winning Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. But Yiddish Policeman's Union is still a work of gritty, imaginative, and freewheeling entertainment by one of California's, and America's, best writers. —F.R.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"