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books - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-04-27 21:15
Subject: books
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:the divine comedy
I just noticed it's been a little while since I did the books update thing. So.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Oh this is a good book. I would give up several (nonvital) organs to write half as well as Chabon. In case you don't know, it takes as its jumping-off point a (real) US suggestion back in the late 1930s that the Jews of Europe be given a homeland in Alaska. That piece of legislaion was defeated in Congress, but in Chabon's book the Congressman who defeated it is run over by a truck before he can do so, and the refugees from the Holocaust arrive in Sitka, Alaska, not Palestine. The Jews who do go to Palestine are basically decimated.
It's a wonderful piece of work. The Federal District of Sitka has only been granted to the Jews for sixty years, after which it has to be handed back. Which is a month or so from the point at which the action of the book takes place. It concerns the investigation by Meyer Landesman, a Sitka detective, of the murder of what seems at first to be a down-and-out heroin addict. The investigation widens out to involve Jewish gangsters and geopolitics, but I don't want to talk about the plot and spoil it for you, because you have to read this book.
Chabon's use of language is extraordinary, offhand, funny. His characters are bright and real. The Jews in Sitka decided to use Yiddish rather than Hebrew, so the thing reads as if Jackie Mason, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen decided to write a hard-boiled detective novel. And it's proper science fiction, a parallel world story in the same way as Len Deighton's SS-GB is a parallel world story. Marvellous. Liked it enormously.

Next up is The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds. Al writes what I suppose you could call `hard space opera,' and he does it wonderfully well. The Prefect sees him returning, after two (very good) stand-alone novels, Century Rain and Pushing Ice (which I loved) to the background of previous novels like Chasm City and Revelation Space. It's a huge book. Not in physical size, although it is satisfyingly chunky, but in the number of stories it collides. There's an attack on a space habitat, insane machine intelligences, space battles...it goes on and on and it's great.

And then there's Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. A slim book because, as Bryson notes, we know next to nothing about Shakespeare. Although we know more about him than most of the other dramatists working at the time. We don't even know when he was born. Bryson sets out to tell us why we can't possibly know all the things scholars pretend to know about the Bard, and instead he tells us what we do know. On the way, he tells us stuff we didn't know about the age Shakespeare lived in and debunks some theories, and he does it all with the eye of a sub-editor, the heart of a journalist, and great wit, common sense and decency. Thoroughly recommended.
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RealThog: sunset
User: realthog
Date: 2008-04-27 22:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sunset

"The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon"

I've heard good things from others, too. Despite its just having won a Nebula, I may have to add a copy to the TBR heaps . . .
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-27 22:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Did it win a Nebula? I didn't know that. Much deserved, though. Yes, you should add it to your TBR pile. Lovely book.
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RealThog: Jim's bear pic
User: realthog
Date: 2008-04-27 22:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Jim's bear pic

"Did it win a Nebula?"

About 24hr ago.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-27 22:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ooh. See what I miss. My last twenty-four hours have been occupied by the Spanish Grand Prix (won by Kimi Raikonnen - race was full of incident but the actual racing was quite tedious) Good. Chabon deserves it.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-27 23:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, a Nebula win would in no way discourage me from reading it. I'm delighted he won, because he deserves it. It is one of my favourite books this year (in fact for several years) and I urge all right-thinking people to read it.
Does anyone know who won the novelette section?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-27 23:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ach, I was hoping Geoff Ryman would get it for `Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter'... But 'nuff respect to Nancy Kress.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-04-27 23:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

"Why would a Nebula win discourage you from reading it?"

Um . . .
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 15:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, I don't understand that either. I'd give my eye teeth for a Nebula.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2008-04-28 20:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I'm no great fan of straightforwardly genre fiction: I love f/sf, but much of what I love isn't to be found on the f/sf shelves of your local B&N. The Nebula is perhaps the most genre-bound of the major f/sf awards. While the imprimatur "Nebula Award Winner!" doesn't have quite the same impact as "Oprah's Book Club Choice!", it has (at least for me) something of the same effect.

I respect Hutch's book judgements a lot (which is far from saying that I like all the books he does). His favourable report on the Chabon is perhaps the clincher persuading me I should read the thing.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 21:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fair point.
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Kat: laughing goat
User: artykat
Date: 2008-04-28 00:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:laughing goat
yes, I agree. Going to put it on my wishlist at PBS. This line made me laugh: The Jews in Sitka decided to use Yiddish rather than Hebrew, so the thing reads as if Jackie Mason, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen decided to write a hard-boiled detective novel.
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Kat: Monarch butterfly
User: artykat
Date: 2008-04-28 00:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Monarch butterfly
Okay, have it added to my wishlist. Sadly, the one I want is not due out May 1st and there are already 69 people on the list for it! I will try to find it elsewhere (another edition, i mean) it sounds so good!

Edited at 2008-04-28 12:36 am (UTC)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-04-28 20:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It is good, and his previous novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is every bit as good. I think he's an outstanding writer.
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