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[Signature]Reviewed byJess WalterThey are the "frozen Chosen," two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon's ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is—deep breath now—a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it's no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here.The novel begins—the same way that Philip Roth launchedThe Plot Against America—with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt's plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book's timeless refrain: "It's a strange time to be a Jew."Into this world arrives Chabon's Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon's "Alyeska" is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize–winningThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies.Chabon can certainly write noir—or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel,The Final Solution, was lovely, even if theNew York Times Book Reviewsniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would "appeal to the real writer." Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin "as pale as a page of commentary" and rough voices "like an onion rolling in a bucket." It's a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police.(May)Jess Walter was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award forThe Zeroand the winner of the 2006 Edgar Award for best novel forCitizen Vince.
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ISBN-10:  0007149824
ISBN-13:  978-0007149827
Author:  Michael Chabon
Publisher:  HarperCollins
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review by . January 20, 2008
This is my second Chabon, following Kavalier & Clay, and I find him a very good writer. He takes the conventions of a genre, stirs them into a bold stew of Jewish history, culture, and personality, prepares the dish with infinite attention to the craft, and the result is an unclassifiable but completely edible meal that must be devoured to the end, even when the reader can't quite identify the taste on his tongue or what makes it so good.    Lets start with the unclassifiable …
review by . August 23, 2007
Chabon, master of metaphor and the exuberant author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," now turns his multi-talented hand to the Jewish speculative alternate-history detective-noir novel.    Morose, keen-eyed, alcoholic Meyer Landsman is the best homicide detective in the temporary Jewish state of Sitka, Alaska. Divorced, he's been marking time at a fleabag motel until Sitka reverts back to American control in two months time and the Jews …
review by . July 02, 2007
I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, several earlier books by Mr. Chabon, so I approached this new one with great enthusiasm. First of all, he creates an alternate history of the world, where John Kennedy marries Marilyn Monore, the atomic bomb is dropped on Berlin in 1946, there appears to have been a war in or with Cuba, and in 1948 the Jews are swept out of Palestine by the Arabs and become settled in the Sitka area of Alaska, with a 50 year grace period offered by the U.S.. All of this is a …
review by . May 05, 2007
Chabon, Michael. "The Yiddish Policemen's Union",  Harper Collins, 2007.      And Now for Something Completely Different...    Amos Lassen and Literary Pride    For a change of pace, I decided to review a book with no gay themes or subplots. I happen to like Michael Chabon and although some of you may have detected a bit of a gay theme in his other works, his new book "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" does not have any. …
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