Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I've been reading

I just finished NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy this morning. Brilliant novel. I loved the movie and felt the need to read the source material. Not for those who like things tied into neat packages, always want to see the hero win the day or the bad guys punished, this is a meditation on how a simple decision to be merciful can lead to total ruin, how some forms of evil are simply stronger than most of us. Chilling, brutal, stark, unforgettable.

Before that, I read Michael Chabon's wonderful THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION. His mastery of the English language is unrivaled, and I found myself highlighting dozens of inventive phrasings.

What if the attempt to settle Palestine by the Jews after WWII had failed? Where would they go? In this inventive novel, they ended up in Sitka, Alaska (apparently based on a real plan developed but later rejected by the U.S. State Department). But the land grant came with an expiration date (called the Reversion), which is fast approaching at the opening of the novel.

The story is an often hilarious romp through the Federal District of Sitka,. The main character is a divorced detective, Meier Landsman, investigating the murder of a man at the very hotel where the detective was living. The investigation methodically uncovers a conspiracy involving the return of the Jewish Messiah, "Black Hat" Jewish Mafia, Landsman's dead sister, and a host of other off-the-wall characters. Highly recommended.

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