Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Yiddish Policeman's Union
Being a critic, even in this highly unpaid capacity, has proven to be a dangerous thing. When you decide to write reviews you feel the burden to review everything that comes under your purview. This leads to the stress of needing to find something to say, preferably something new and different and heaven-help-me thought provoking, which makes it all too easy to fall into the trap of extremity. Too many times a book or movie that inspired no real passionate feeling is over-analyzed and scrutinized in an attempt to get to a point where it can be seen as a 1 or a 10. After all, who wants to write (or read) mediocre reviews? It's far easier, and a lot more fun, to think of new ways to trash something, or rarely, to praise.
I didn't particularly like Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. However, I think it is one of those books that others might enjoy very much. (I know my father did.) Who's to say that I haven't been in the wrong frame of mind over the last week for such a novel? Whereas I saw some of the plot of the novel as cartoonish and incredulous (even granting its Jews in Alaska premise) others will, through no diminished capacity for understanding, find them astonishingly inventive and clever. Perhaps I myself would like it were I to revisit it in some other hour.
So no, I didn't particularly like the book, but I think Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, and I respect the challenge he set forth for himself with this project. Writing this book must have required learning a new language, intricate research of the mythology of two cultures, and years of honing draft after draft. I could never write like Chabon does, very few people could, and though this book did not stir anything deep within me I don't feel that that alone is enough to waste time trying to point out reasons for my own disapproval.
I'm not going to give this book a ranking, I don't honestly know where to put it. This is a grand attempt that I am not sure succeeds, but I in no way want to discourage such endeavors.