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Howard Jacobson is a Man Booker Prize-winning British author and journalist. He is best known for writing comic novels that often revolve around the dilemmas of British Jewish characters.
The Finkler Question: A Novel
"He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one..."
Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.
Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor's grand, central London apartment.
It's a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you had less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends' losses.
And it's that very evening, at exactly 11:30pm, as Treslove hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country as he walks home, that he is attacked. After this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
The Finkler Question is a scorching story of exclusion and belonging, justice and love, ageing, wisdom and humanity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.
J: A Novel
Finalist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize
“J is a snarling, effervescent, and ambitious philosophical work of fiction that poses unsettling questions about our sense of history, and our self-satisfied orthodoxies. Jacobson’s triumph is to craft a novel that is poignant as well as troubling from the debris.” —Independent (UK)
Man Booker Prize–winner Howard Jacobson’s brilliant and profound new novel, J, “invites comparison with George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World” (Sunday Times, London). Set in a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J is a boldly inventive love story, both tender and terrifying.
Kevern Cohen doesn’t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a word starting with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place to be asking questions. When the extravagantly beautiful Ailinn Solomons arrives in his village by a sea that laps no other shore, Kevern is instantly drawn to her. Although mistrustful by nature, the two become linked as if they were meant for each other. Together, they form a refuge from the commonplace brutality that is the legacy of a historic catastrophe shrouded in suspicion, denial, and apology, simply referred to as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. To Ailinn’s guardian, Esme Nussbaum, Ailinn and Kevern are fragile shoots of hopefulness. As this unusual pair’s actions draw them into ever-increasing danger, Esme is determined to keep them together—whatever the cost.
In this stunning, evocative, and terribly heartbreaking work, where one couple’s love affair could have shattering consequences for the human race, Howard Jacobson gathers his prodigious gifts for the crowning achievement of a remarkable career.
From the Hardcover edition.
Shylock Is My Name
Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson brings his singular brilliance to this modern re-imagining of one of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable characters: Shylock
Winter, a cemetery, Shylock. In this provocative and profound interpretation of “The Merchant of Venice,” Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge.
While Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice's “betrayal” of her family and heritage – as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field – Shylock alternates grief for his beloved wife with rage against his own daughter's rejection of her Jewish upbringing. Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock’s demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson’s insightful retelling examines contemporary, acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity while maintaining a poignant sympathy for its characters and a genuine spiritual kinship with its antecedent—a drama which Jacobson himself considers to be “the most troubling of Shakespeare’s plays for anyone, but, for an English novelist who happens to be Jewish, also the most challenging.”
The Mighty Walzer: A Novel
From the beginning Oliver Walzer is a natural--at ping-pong. Even with his improvised bat (the Collins Classic edition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde) he can chop, flick, half-volley like a champion. At sex he is not a natural, being shy and frightened of women, but with tuition from Sheeny Waxman, fellow member of the Akiva Social Club Table Tennis team, his game improves. And while the Akiva boys teach him everything he needs to know about ping-pong, his father, Joel Walzer, teaches him everything there is to know about "swag." Unabashedly autobiographical, this is an hilarious and heartbreaking story of one man's coming of age in 1950's Manchester.
The Act of Love: A Novel
In a stunning follow-up to his much-heralded masterpiece, Kalooki Nights, acclaimed author Howard Jacobson has turned his mordant and uncanny sights on Felix Quinn, a rare-book dealer living in London, whose wife Marisa is unfaithful to him.
All husbands, Felix maintains, secretly want their wives to be unfaithful to them. Felix hasn't always thought this way. From the moment of his first boyhood rejection, surviving the shattering effects of love and jealousy had been the study of his life. But while he is honeymooning with Marisa in Florida an event occurs that changes everything. In a moment, he goes from dreading the thought of someone else's hands on the woman he loves to thinking about nothing else. Enter Marius into Marisa's affections. And now Felix must wonder if he really is a happy man.
The Act of Love is a haunting novel of love and jealousy, with stylish prose that crackles and razor-sharp dialogue, praised by the London Times as "darkly transgressive, as savage in its brilliance, as anything Jacobson has written." It is a startlingly perceptive, subtle portrait of a marriage and an excruciatingly honest, provocative exploration of sexual obsession.
Kalooki Nights: A Novel
Max Glickman, a Jewish cartoonist whose seminal work is a comic history titled Five Thousand Years of Bitterness, recalls his childhood in a British suburb in the 1950s. Growing up, Max is surrounded by Jews, each with an entirely different and outspoken view on what it means to be Jewish. His mother, incessantly preoccupied with a card game called Kalooki, only begrudgingly puts the deck away on the High Holy Days. Max's father, a failed boxer prone to spontaneous nosebleeds, is a self-proclaimed atheist and communist, unable to accept the God who has betrayed him so unequivocally in recent years.
But it is through his friend and neighbor Manny Washinsky that Max begins to understand the indelible effects of the Holocaust and to explore the intrinsic and paradoxical questions of a postwar Jewish identity. Manny, obsessed with the Holocaust and haunted by the allure of its legacy, commits a crime of nightmare proportion against his family and his faith. Years later, after his friend's release from prison, Max is inexorably drawn to uncover the motive behind the catastrophic act -- the discovery of which leads to a startling revelation and a profound truth about religion and faith that exists where the sacred meets the profane.
Spanning the decades between World War II and the present day, acclaimed author Howard Jacobson seamlessly weaves together a breath-takingly complex narrative of love, tragedy, redemption, and above all, remarkable humor. Deeply empathetic and audaciously funny, Kalooki Nights is a luminous story torn violently between the hope of restoring and rebuilding Jewish life, and the painful burden of memory and loss.
In the Land of Oz
The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question went Down Under, and this is what he hilariously found.
On what he calls "the adventure of his life,” Howard Jacobson travels around Australia, never entirely sure where he is heading next or whether he has the courage to tackle the wild life of the bush, the wild men of the outback, or the even wilder women of the seaboard cities.
In pursuit of the best of Australian good times, he joins revelers at Uluru, argues with racists in the Kimberleys, parties with winegrowers in the Barossa, and falls for ballet dancers in Perth. And even as vexed questions of national identity and Aboriginal land rights present themselves, his love for Australia and Australians never falters.
No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Novel
Frank Ritz is a television critic. His partner, Melissa Paul, is the author of pornographic novels for liberated women. He watches crap all day; she writes crap all day. It's a life. Or it was a life. But now they're fighting, locked in oral combat. He won't shut up and she is putting her finger down her throat again. So there's only one thing for it -- Frank has to go.
But go where? And do what? Frank Ritz has been in heat more or less continuously since he could speak his own name. Let him out of the house and his first instinct is to go looking for sex. Deviant sex. treacherous sex, even straight sex, so long as it's immoderate--he's never been choosy. But what happens when sex is all you know but no longer what you want?
Pussy is the story of Prince Fracassus, heir presumptive to the Duchy of Origen, famed for its golden-gated skyscrapers and casinos, who passes his boyhood watching reality shows on TV, imagining himself to be the Roman Emperor Nero, and fantasizing about hookers. He is idle, boastful, thin-skinned and egotistic; has no manners, no curiosity, no knowledge, no idea and no words in which to express them. Could he, in that case, be the very leader to make the country great again?
Zoo Time ENHANCED EDITION: Includes additional content
Novelist Guy Ableman is in thrall to his vivacious wife Vanessa, a strikingly beautiful red-head, contrary, highly strung and blazingly angry. The trouble is, he is no less in thrall to her alluring mother, Poppy. More like sisters than mother and daughter, they come as a pair, a blistering presence that destroys Guy's peace of mind, suggesting the wildest stories but making it impossible for him to concentrate long enough to write any of them.
Not that anyone reads Guy anyway. Not that anyone is reading anything. Reading, Guy fears, is finished. His publisher, fearing the same, has committed suicide. His agent, like all agents, is in hiding. Vanessa, in the meantime, is writing a novel of her own. Guy doesn't expect her to finish it, or even start it, but he dreads the consequences if she does.
In flight from personal disappointment and universal despair, Guy wonders if it's time to take his love for Poppy to another level. Fiction might be dead, but desire isn't. And out of that desire he imagines squeezing one more great book.
By turns angry, elegiac, and rude, Zoo Time is a novel about love-love of women, love of literature, love of laughter. It shows our funniest writer at his brilliant best.
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