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Kalooki Nights [Hardcover]

Howard Jacobson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Jun 2006
Life should have been sunny for Max Glickman, growing up in Crumpsall Park in peacetime, with his mother's glamorous card evenings to look forward to, and photographs of his father's favourite boxers on the walls. But other voices whisper seductively to him of Buchenwald, extermination, and the impossibility of forgetting. Fixated on the crimes which have been committed against his people, but unable to live among them, Max moves away, marries out, and draws cartoon histories of Jewish suffering in which no one, least of all the Jews, is much interested. But it's a life. Or it seems a life until Max's long-disregarded childhood friend, Manny Washinsky, is released from prison. Little by little, as he picks up his old connection with Manny, trying to understand the circumstances in which he made a Buchenwald of his own home, Max is drawn into Manny's family history - above all his brother's tragic love affair with a girl who is half German. But more than that, he is drawn back into the Holocaust obsessions from which he realises there can be, and should be, no release. There is wild, angry, even uproarious laughter in this novel, but it is laughter on the edge. It is the comedy of cataclysm.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition edition (22 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224078658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224078658
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 848,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), the highly acclaimed The Act of Love and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize 2010-winning The Finkler Question. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Product Description

Review

"Here he is at the top of his form in a comic/tragic epic". -- Melvyn Bragg, The Guardian

"The biggest laugh and the biggest cry since Angela Carter's Small
Children." -- Simon Schama, Observer.

"The raging, contentious, hilarious, holy, deicidal, heartbreaking Kalooki Nights is a novel that stands toe-to-toe with the greats" -- Sunday Telegraph

"raised his game... to fresh heights and depths" -- Independent: Christmas books

'This is turbocharged; someone has put a rocket under Jacobson, and the result is scintillating' -- Evening Standard

'a masterpiece …a brilliantly constructed, playful, evocative, hilarious, midnight dark novel' -- Sunday Herald

A ferocious intelligence courses through it, reminiscent of Philip
Roth at his... best.’
-- Jonathan Freedland, Jewish Chronicle

an uncompromising and uncomfortably funny novel
-- Metro - Best Fiction of 2006

‘likely to be the funniest book published this year…prose sharper and brighter than any of his contemporaries’ -- The Observer

• ‘a welcome return to the bittersweet Yiddish-inspired humour at which Jacobson excels...comparisons with Philip Roth…a gloriously pugnacious novel' -- The Guardian

Book Description

A blackly comic novel from the British Philip Roth, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm Sorry Now 21 Aug 2006
Format:Hardcover
I'm a long-time fan of Howard Jacobson's and have enjoyed his last four novels: No More Mister Nice Guy, The Mighty Walzer, Who's Sorry Now? and The Making of Henry. So when Kalooki Nights was published and seemed to achieve a sort of critical consensus in the papers (see the reviews extracted above, as well as A.C. Grayling's extraordinary eulogy in The Times: "it is, to state plainly, a work of genius"), I couldn't wait to read it. Then it was longlisted for the Booker Prize last week, and quickly was tipped for the shortlist.

So it gives me no pleasure at all to say that I have given up on Kalooki Nights at about the one-third mark (page 150). Even by Jacobson's discursive, rambling standards it really is toweringly random and in the end the critic I most agreed with is Michael Moorcock who said "Jacobson is a great anecdotalist but a lousy storyteller." Now anyone who reads Jacobson knows that the plot is not the point: but even so. There is less a story than an exploration around a story: specifically, the narrator Maxie Glickman trying to discover why his childhood friend Manny Washinsky gassed both his own parents in their bed. The cultural background, if you hadn't guessed by the names, is Jewish, or Jewish squared: as Jacobson himself said, "it's the most Jewish novel ever written by anyone anywhere." This will be familiar to anyone who's read any of Jacobson's other novels (particularly the semi-autobiographical coming of age story The Mighty Walzer), and here we have the added colour of the big Jewish storyline of the 20th century - the Holocaust.

Sadly for me Jacobson's black humour and tangential style didn't work here the way it has in his other books, and I'm afraid I found Kalooki Nights tiresome almost from the outset: which can't be a good sign.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over long and rather self defeating 6 Feb 2007
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Kalooki Nights is a loosely biographical story of Maxie Glickman, a post-war Mancunian Jew.

The central theme seems to centre around victimhood and minority identity when the witchhunt moves elsewhere. Maxie and his schoolfriends soon learn deep anger at the treatment of the Jews in the war and exert enormous energy hating the war criminals. To justify their anger at events they never witnessed, they hunt for antisemitism in all around them. When they don't succeed, they seem to annoy others in order to provike reactions that can be seen as anti-semitism. This is exemplified in Maxies choice of wives and girlfriends, most of whom are anodyne at best but provoked into reaction against Maxie's constant self-pity and reference back to Jewsih themes. There is an amusing contrast on display in the form of Maxie's sister's man - an Irishman (sorry, the name escapes me), who is very eager to learn Jewish ways and frustrated when he never quite succeeds.

This is an interesting premise - how do members of an oppressed minority react when the oppression stops. Do members integrate with the whole, as some characters do; or do they continue to act the role of the victim, becoming increasingly frustrated as sympathy evaporates? But the premise might have been brought to denouement in half the number of pages. Although Kalooki Nights did have moments of humour in the early encounters, it became repetitive and dull. Not even the intrigue about Maxie's friend Manny (who had gassed his parents) was enough to sustain interest. I did read on to the bitter end (and there was much bitterness to be got through in the process), but I'm not sure it repaid the effort.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...and far too long 7 Sep 2007
By pseudopanax VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Other reviewers of the book appear to have had a similar reaction to mine--this book is just too long. Like Zadie Smith's rambling and unfocused On Beauty, Kalooki Nights is another example of an author in desperate need of an editor. The book might have been far more interesting if 200 or so pages were knocked off it. There is always a lovely edge of anger and frustration in Jacobson's characters, but for some reason Maxie's self-loathing is less interesting than previous Jacobson creations and his expressions of it are so repetitive that the edge is worn off long before you get to the end of the book. Manny's story on the surface is an intriguing and potentially offensive one, but it somehow fails to be as subversive as one would assume it to be. Jonathan Safran Foer's comparison of Jacobson to Phillip Roth on the back cover is ridiculous: Roth's recent work seethes and rages with a frightening intensity, whilst his earlier work is sharply self-loathing and precise (i.e not 500 pages). I always have thought of Jacobson as a very different sort of writer--his characters express intense frustrations in a more subtly comic way than in great intense bursts. I think Kalooki Nights was meant to be a "big" book in terms of its subject matter, but in some ways it is only a big book in terms of the number of pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Finkler (IMHO) 22 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback
I've not read Kiran Desai's 2006 novel 'The Inheritance of Loss', so I'm unqualified to say whether it deserved to beat 'Kalooki Nights' to not only the Booker shortlist but the prize itself. All I *can* say is that 'Kalooki Nights' is, indeed, better than 'The Finkler Question', the novel with which Howard Jacobson eventually nabbed the Booker and a little bit of long overdue attention.

Yes, it has the same rambling, anecdotal style which Jacobson's critics hate; yes, if you're a gentile with little or no experience of Jewish culture you might find yourself a little lost amongst the shtetls, shiksahs, schmucks and schlemiels; but this is, I think, the more focused novel, plunging that little bit deeper into the modern, British-Jewish psyche than its follow-up.

For a novel which explores some very dark and troubling themes and subject matter, it's often side-splittingly, laugh-out-loud funny (in a way which 'Finkler', aside from "the facepaint incident", isn't), and even its most oblique or eccentric characters are sympathetic and sometimes endearing.

Don't get me wrong... I loved 'The Finkler Question', and if you want to read an entertaining satire on contemporary (as in bang-up-to-date) Jewish life in Britain, you should read it ASAP. But 'Kalooki Nights' is, I think, a better demonstration of Jacobson's skill as a writer and as a story teller.

I've heard a great many readers of 'Finkler' who are first time readers of Jacobson's work complain that it wasn't what they were expecting. They were expecting a novel that had more substance, more jokes, more engaging characters. The book they may have been expecting was, I believe, 'Kalooki Nights'. But don't take my word for it... Read both!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read.
Published 13 days ago by mrs p baddeley
1.0 out of 5 stars Jewishness
No doubt a very clever book but oh dear so mired in gloom and doom not to mention the fantasies about a Nazi guard. Definitely one set of 500 pages to miss - sorry.
Published 1 month ago by M. E. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought it as a present for my Mother.
I had read the book on Kindle and decided that my mum might like it.She grew up in Prestwich so there was some familiar areas to think about. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms L.A.S Collier
2.0 out of 5 stars Really couldn't get into this.
Not read any Howard Jacobson in the past but heard good things about him. Sadly I really couldn't get into this. Read more
Published 11 months ago by John Beresford
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Darkly funny and beautifully written. My first Jacobson read, and one I'd recommend to anyone who loves reading beautifully written literature.
Published 13 months ago by ADAM
3.0 out of 5 stars A strange sort of appeal
It's hard to disagree with the criticisms other reviewers have made. Yes, it's at least 100 pages too long, and only about half a dozen of those pages don't mention 'Jews' or... Read more
Published on 31 May 2011 by Jebbers
5.0 out of 5 stars Another 5 (Jewish) stars
I read somewhere that Jacobson himself said of 'Kalooki Nights' that it was 'the most Jewish book ever written by anybody anywhere'. Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2011 by R. Altman
2.0 out of 5 stars This Is Not A Comic Novel
Thank Goodness for the other reviews on here! I'm 100 pages in & was starting to wonder if it was just me. Read more
Published on 29 Dec 2010 by Mr. Anthony JONES
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewish Shmooish
Contrary to most reviewers here, I was hooked from the start. The idea of a hetersexual middle-aged Jewish cartoonist having trouble with drawing for gay men (he couldn't get the... Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2010 by A. C. Young
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, Not as Funny as I expected.
In person Jacobson is very funny. On the page he is not as good. This is long, diffcult and interesting read but don't expect laugh out loud moments.
Published on 2 Oct 2008 by Ping Buzzer 1
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