RARA-AVIS: Yiddish Policeman's Union

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 05 Jun 2007

I agree: the first hundred pages are hard to get through (I'm at p.45). This has to do with Chabon's showing off his verbal dexterity. I think there are more adjectives and ingenious descriptive phrases than in whole novels by crime writers from Chandler to Goodis to Pelecanos. Pulp paperback writers had to keep to a certain word limit because their publishers would not want to spend too much for paper. Maybe this was an important factor in making classic noir crime fiction the terse, suggestive form it was.

There is an allusion to Jerome Charyn in the Author's Note. No doubt for Charyn's Isaac novels, and other stories of crime and conscience with classic Diaspora moral themes by 19th century eastern European writers about the shtetl and ghetto.

Several high toned reviews of YPL are very appreciative, and also hard to get through. I suppose John Leonard of The _NY Review of Books_ is a genius, but I always get lost in his long lists of writers the subject of his review is similar to, different than, or just obscure enough that Leonard's readers have not read them. One would expect a progressive magazine such as _The Nation_ would be appreciative of a genre like crime fiction. However, Wm. Deresiewicz's (positive) review ends up saying that the mystery novel genre does not serve Chabon well. The reason is it it too, er, rigid, and people know how things always turn out in the crime novel genre. "...The dick will solve the murder, and turn his life around, in the final chapter. . . . . The appeal of [the detective story's] plot evaporates once you learn how it turns out." Say what?

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