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Kalooki Nights
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on 20 May 2017
Very intriguing and unusual. I couldn't put it down. I think you have to be Jewish to "get" it. Funny and dark humour. I felt it ended unsatisfactorily but the merit of the book is in its vignettes rather than the story. I will certainly try more of this author.
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on 11 September 2015
This is brilliant. It's the one that should have won the Booker. A few acquaintances have read it and they all agree.
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on 19 August 2014
Great read.
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on 18 November 2013
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.I just laughed out loud sometimes though there was a very serious side to the novel.
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on 16 January 2015
Really his best ever. Although Finkler Question is great this is greater.
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on 1 August 2013
Darkly funny and beautifully written. My first Jacobson read, and one I'd recommend to anyone who loves reading beautifully written literature.
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on 6 June 2015
A rewarding, intriguing and thought-provoking read, and probably in its way a great novel.

"In its way" is not supposed to imply limitation to the word "great", although the challenges of a book that does not, I think, aim for perfection (in the sense, for example, of symmetry) of form are many. The narratives are meant to be personal and individual acts of remembrance and/or research by the central figure, Max. That brings with it a (deliberate) freedom to digress, and sometimes the digression will seem random and even self-indulgent until its relevance to the main plot or themes emerges.

There is an almost picaresque sense of energy and volatility in some of the subsidiary episodes and characters, bordering on the grotesque, which, given Max's calling - he is a cartoonist - is entirely appropriate. That a grotesque character like Tsedraiter Ike should end up - for all his apparent oddness, stubbornness and anti-social eccentricity - finding love, and successfully concealing that from his family, is but one of many instances in the novel where the reader is confronted by the impenetrability of the human soul. Given that we know so little of each other's inner lives and motivations, then how should we expect to be able to understand the twists and turns of human history, with its moments of glory and its boundless horrors?

Difficult to do justice to this vastly thought-provoking book which now I like even more, after a third reading, than I did on first reading it several years back. To plumb the depths of evil is an achievement for any author, but to do so by means of an approach which is often unashamedly frivolous and playful is a striking and curious achievement.

This is not a forgettable novel. Strongly recommended.
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on 21 March 2011
I read somewhere that Jacobson himself said of 'Kalooki Nights' that it was 'the most Jewish book ever written by anybody anywhere'. Jacobsonian tongue in cheek hyperbole notwithstanding, I agree.

I see that A C Grayling ranks the book as genius. I agree with this too. But I don't think he's Jewish? Simon Schama (who is Jewish) says 'you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this book - just human'. But I would imagine that you do need to have one helluva lot of insider Jewish knowlege, not to mention experience, to really get all of what's going on here fully.

Jacobson recently appeared on the Sky Arts book show apropos winning the Booker for 'The Finkler Question'. (Which is a very Jewish book too, but still not as much as this one, actually.) Frostrup asked, so what is Jewishness? (Or something similar.) HJ replied 'I don't know what Jewishness is' (or something similar). Well, in Kalooki, the main character is a cartoonist. Let's say for argument's sake that there's a lot of HJ in Max Glickman, the cartoonist. And at one point Maxie says of cartooning 'it's an irresponsible affair, not to be taken too seriously'. HJ's response to Frostrup is a case in point. If anyone knows Jewishness inside out it's HJ. Kalooki is a brilliant read - hilarious at times, profoundly poignant at others. It is also a compendium of Jewishness. There is nothing that is Jewish that is not in this book.

Here's another sample of this irresponsible (mischievous?) tendency: Frostrup asked why he considered himself to be the Jewish Jane Austen. (As he has famously said.) His response: 'Well, no, what I mean is the male Jane Austen'. So an arresting and cheeky remark tossed out without too much honing of the intent, folllowed by a quick retraction when challenged.

Some reviewers here have found the book boring or rambling, and even given up. Michael Bywater, reviewing 'The Making of Henry' wrote: 'You don't read Jacobson to find out what happens next. You read him to find out what's said next'. Exactly. Page for page, line for line, sheer rambling brilliance. The storyline could be summed up in a minute. It's a dazzling outpouring of language deployed with wit and intelligence and imagination. (And humour.) Or if you prefer, a very long series of sketches - when I met chloe; when I dined out with Mick; when I understood why uncle Ike sang Barnacle Bill; when I met Manny for the first time after he was released etc.

I sometimes wonder what is HJ playing at, toying with the gentile readership in full view the way he does. Here's a conversation Max has with his boyhood friend Errol:

Errol: Tell me something, he said at last, do you ever worry what the goyim think?
Max: In what sense? Do I worry that they miss the joke? Of course they miss the joke. They're goyim.
Errol: I don't mean that. I mean do you ever worry that you're telling them too much about us?
Max: What, by blowing the lid on what we're like? You think they don't know? My position, Errol, is they managed to detest and fear us well enough before I came along.

So for Jews, another 5 Jewish stars read, for non-Jews, may be enjoyable ... on the other hand ...
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on 6 September 2006
Well, I tend not to pay too much attention to the critics, most of them seem to be riding one or another hobbyhorse or writing a nice bit of puff for a friend's book in the hope that their friend will return the compliment. That Jacobson is overlooked by the prize-givers can only be explained by sheer envy; they can't write like this. I can only give it five stars because that's the maximum. Anyone who buys this book will not be disappointed simply because Howard Jacobson is a seriously funny, seriously profound, seriously good writer, as near to genius as anyone has a right to be. Every book is an event (seems to be one about every two years) and though I think Mr Self makes some good points, I don't think writing of this craft and quality comes along regularly enough to quibble. Read the othert novels first, by all means, but read this one, too.

You'll have gathered I hold the man in high regard. Do yourself a favour, and read him. Chap's a national treasure, though I rather doubt he'd thank me for saying so.
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on 18 July 2014
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.
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