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Zoo Time [Paperback]

Howard Jacobson
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

23 May 2013

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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Zoo Time + The Finkler Question + Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (23 May 2013)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1408831740
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408831748
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,774 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


Carries all the intimations of angst, melancholia and comedy that make Jacobson unique (Daily Telegraph)

When he's at full throttle like this, few British novelists can touch him for such stirring, belligerent comedy ... Jacobson's attack on our growing philistinism proving uncomfortably persuasive (Daily Mail)

Comedy is never as clever as when Howard Jacobson is on a roll and this book finds him barrelling (Independent on Sunday)

Seriously funny (Alexei Sayle, Daily Telegraph)

Does not fail to offer Jacobson's trademark pleasures, his wit, his energy his love of words - and some will add his self-deprecating priapic jokes to this list (New Statesmen)

Brilliantly composed ... crackling with Jacobson's wit, superb wordplay and boundless exuberance (Times Literary Supplement)

All the trademark Jacobson qualities - waspish comedy, transgressive sex, wry riffs on Jewishness, prose so scintillating you might miss its underlying artistry - are here in spades ***** (The Mail on Sunday)

You don't read Jacobson for a restrained and respectful delineation of what goes on between men and women; you read him for a no-holds-barred, bawdy and highly naughty glimpse into what we're all really thinking about doing to one another. And for the jokes, of which Zoo Time has plenty (Guardian Summer Reading)

Once again, Jacobson shows that the true humorist is among the best kinds of novelist. His humour is neither cheap nor chirpy but addresses fundamental mysteries (Sunday Telegraph)

A fiercely intelligent, fizzing piece of theatre ... An intellectually rich depiction of the animal desires that drive us, and the human feelings that elevate and sadden us ... In Guy Ableman, Jacobson has created an unforgettable narrator, a character defined by heroic flaws and tender, susceptible heart ... Magnificently eclectic in its range of targets, Zoo Time is a bestiary of bêtes noir. Few modern novelists better balance the absurd with the artistic, the priapic with the philosophical, the wicked with the wise ... a scorching indictment of an anti-intellectual age in which most readers are greedy for pap, and those who want more than a sugared bun passed to them through the bars are doomed to starve (Sunday Herald)

Zoo Time is wonderfully witty, ferociously clever and assured to the point of swaggering - he's clever enough to tease his readers without taking his eyes off the road (Kate Saunders, Jewish Chronicle)

There were many moments when I roared with laughter

(Readers Digest)

Always zestful and occasionally bang on target (Sunday Times (Ireland))

Angry, funny and profoundly pessimistic fiction (Prospect)

He does have an ear in the Joycean or Tennysonian sense of writing prose that rings out, that sounds good in your head as you're reading (Literary Review)

As sharp and intelligent as it is enjoyable (Stylist)

Brilliant, blistering comedy, with melancholy undertones of regret for what is being lost (Kate Saunders, The Times)

Ableman's every beautifully constructed comic riff is a response to his fear of not being read **** (Sunday Express)

Jacobson fills the tale with exuberant comedy. He has a stand-up's skill for callbacks, puns and quips, which make Zoo Time a total riot (Time Out)

Jacobson takes the time to craft lines that are so perfectly executed, they deserve to be read twice. Possibly even aloud, to fully appreciate the comedic value of his prose ... humour still drips off every page ... Fascinating, often hilarious **** (The List)

Jacobson is a master of keep-up-at-the-back smart talk (Evening Standard)

Buoyant comedy of gritty life, great literature and a good laugh (Iain Finlayson, Saga)

It's also joyously rude about almost everything and filled with delicious invective. Just relax and go with it - it's Zoo Time (We Love This Book)

Book Description

The new novel from the author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As a feminist.... 18 May 2014
By Sara
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a feminist, I thought I'd perhaps try to wind the author up by writing a Chipping Norton-esque review, but I can't do it. I'm the wrong kind of feminist, and the wrong kind of ethnicity. A lot of 'I's' in that sentence, which is appropriate. As Jacobson's narrator himself says on more than one occasion, it's all "me, me, me". For to enjoy this book - and I did - you have to want to be in the company of Guy Ableman, thin-skinned, myopic and resentful as he is. Aren't we all?

The book is about (there; another clause to annoy Jacobson) the state of publishing, the necessary selfishness of the writer, the shallow idiocy of the reader, the ghastliness of the platform on which I post this review, and all the related gripes that successful and established writers have in the context of what I think Will Self, another clever miserablist, called the post-Gutenberg era. If that doesn't interest you - a lot - then this probably isn't the book for you. Go read something YA, Ableman would probably advise.

It's also an extended essay about writing, musing playfully on changing fashions, even in the use of grammar. This might have been an harrumphing old school rant about the current state of readers' illiteracy, but Jacobson's too good for that, even if at times he might wobble a little on the tightrope. It might give every appearance of being a reactionary book, but it isn't.

Did I say I was a feminist? So I must comment on the women in this book. They are there, mostly the faintest shadows, glimpsed through Ableman's projections, until we readers, though our innate understanding of cognitive poetics, grasp them late in the novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I chose to buy this book after reading a positive review in a newspaper. Initially I found it to be intriguing and humorous (lightly, not laugh-out-loud so folk look at you in shock on a train). I found the lead character, Guy, interesting and was keen to see what would happen between him and his mother-in-law.

And then about half way through, Jacobson started to irritate me. The characters became unlikeable and I found myself not caring about any of them at all, especially the lead, who I grew to really dislike. What's the point? What's actually gpoing on? This is just self-indulgent drivel; a rant against modern times and plenty pigeonholing, which made me inwardly groan.

I don't understand why Jacobson is hailed as one of our best writers. This book is dirge and the reviews on amazon for Booker Prize winnging "The Finkler Question" clearly show that his style is, in the main, disliked by the reader but hailed as second-to-none by the reviewer, critic and journalist. Are they getting a cut of his royalties or something?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zoo Time 9 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When we meet author Guy Ableman he has been battered by a reading group - indeed he is feeling generally put upon and discouraged by the state of publishing and, in reality, this is a brave novel about a subject that readers and writers seem to discuss endlessly. The arrival of the ebook, what sells (there is a scene where Guy feels he should write a novel with either Tudors or vampires in it which is funny only because it is true), YA fiction, the despair of the publishing industry, reviews on Amazon and agents avoiding authors in case they are offered a book they have to place are all covered, within the general story of Guy and his marriage to Vanessa.

Vanessa is a gorgeous, vibrant and talented woman who has an equally beautiful mother, Poppy Eisenhower. When they walk into the boutique that Guy runs, they seem to come as a pair - both with flaming red hair and almost like sisters. In the age of the Great Decline, when "the age of sparing a writers feelings was past", Guy has problems with his publisher, his agent, his parents, his brother and his wife. So he decides to write a novel about his desire for his mother in law, despite advice to the contrary. This leads to a re-telling of his relationship with daughter and mother-in-law, encompassing various book events and Vanessa's own desire to be an author.

This novel is a satire and so much of what Howard Jacobson writes about readers and the world of writers, is tongue in cheek. That is not to say that he does not deride things people hold as sacred, but much of the most biting comments are aimed at himself and it is authors he savages most ('me, me, me').
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Who's bored? 11 Oct 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I don't think Howard Jacobson is interested in his own novel. The lengthy narrative feels as if he is bored. It's not just the reader who is tempted to say if you have read one Jacobson novel you have read them all. It feels as if the author has come to the same conclusion. It's about a Jewish man, in England, as are all his novels. Who talks about sex all the time, and who seeks to be 'transgressive' , to shock or amuse the reader by the outrageousness of his appetite and behaviour. As do all his protagonists. And it relentlessly tries be funny with a succession of one liners and wisecracks, that he takes very seriously. He foresees every possible criticism of his main character Guy as a man and a novelist, as a way it seems to deflect criticism he has met of himself. The whole narrative is driven by a sneer: spite, contempt and scorn for the stupid reader. Overall Jacobson seems bored with his own voice, bored by the novel as a form, and thus by his own livelihood, and bored by the great majority of people around him. He's desperate. It's Edwina Currie out of Bernard Manning. Jacobson thinks the joke is on his reader. I think the joke is on him.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Another boring book about a writer
The "hero" Guy Abelman is - wait for it - a writer! He spends most of his time complaining about the declining number of readers ".... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. D. Nash
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good book. Rarely read anything like this where you really, really dislike all the characters. Might just be me but if its what the author planned, he got it spot on. Read more
Published 8 months ago by johnsowter
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring after the preview chapter.
I downloaded the preview chapter and thought I would really enjoy this book but was disappointed from then on. Only read this is you want lots of male navel gazing and no action. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs Evelyn Baxter
4.0 out of 5 stars Zoo Time - have we actually evolved?
Well written and somewhat challenging - this book would appeal to those recognising that in a changing world human sexuality hasn't moved on much!
Published 8 months ago by Lesley Gubbins
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Funny, sad and sparklingly well written. It was a joy to come to this after reading a crappily written thriller. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Peter Fine
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorbing and boring
Don't bother would be my advice. It starts off in a vaguely interesting way, but the author seems concerned only with himself & comes across as a self-deluded misogynist. Read more
Published 10 months ago by angelofthesouth
2.0 out of 5 stars Booring
I had to struggle to finish.It was quite funny to begin with but the joke wears thin on being repeated so often.
Published 11 months ago by Alan F. Mansell
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual like the book so far ...text font far too small
Cover 2.0 Allrighters stars. My local library are promoting a good book reads month. I picked up a couple of books last week and yesterday I picked up Zoo Time. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Alexander Kreator
1.0 out of 5 stars Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Self absorbed, dull, droning, and lengthy.
I consider it an insult to my eyes, my brain and my spare time to read any more than the first chapter.
Published 14 months ago by Ms. Hannah V. Eungblut
5.0 out of 5 stars CLASSIC JACOBSON
OK, so nothing is going to beat The Finkler Question (or, for that matter, Kalooki Nights) but this is right up there. Hugely funny, but laced with some acute, astute observations.
Published 15 months ago by Scribbler
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