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The Mighty Walzer Paperback – 6 Apr 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099274728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099274728
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Howard Jacobson has been described as "one of the funniest writers alive", his fiction a masterpiece of comedy. "At its best", writes Mary Loudon, "it simply tears you apart." Following the success of No More Mr Nice Guy in 1998--Jacobson's foul and funny rendition of the sex war--The Mighty Walzer moves into the strange, and passionate, world of ping pong to tell the life of one Oliver Walzer. "Grandiosity was in the family," Oliver announces at the very beginning of his account of a childhood in Manchester in the 1950s. "On my father's side. Normally, when I speak of "the family" I seem to mean my father's side. Make what you like of that." It's a challenge which runs throughout the book. We can make what we like of this "history of embarrassments" and the family--"from some sucking bog outside Proskurov"--which supports it.

"One disillusionment at a time" is the principle behind Jacobson's telling of a youth suspended between ping pong and masturbation, mortification and omnipotence, anti- Semitism and the Akiva gang. At the Akiva club, Walzer comes into his own: he's a natural, with the makings of a "star" (even if he is stoned by the "prefab boys" on his way there). At home, he's caught between the flamboyance of his market-trader father--the "swag", and swagger, he wants to pass on to his son--and his mother's famous "reserve". Balancing the split legacy--win or lose? laugh or cry? put up or shut up?--is part of the pain, and pleasure, of the book. No surprise, perhaps, that Walzer is unwilling to make a clear distinction between the two. When it comes to sex and friendship, family and history, life and ping pong, The Mighty Walzer is a brilliant story of one man's journey to the realm of "pain fun": the pleasure of a life spent losing and learning what you can ask for. --Vicky Lebeau --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Jacobson is a great storyteller: phrases, anecdotes and atmosphere roll off the page with the ease and sublime, scary grace of drunken eels...he is unsurpassable" (The Times)

"This mature novel has the sustained exuberance and passion of his youthful writing...an achingly funny book...an amazing acheivement... There are few novelists today who can imbue the trifles of life with such poetry" (Independent)

"Marvellous. Jacobson has not just written the first great novel about ping-pong. He has written one of the greatest sporting novels ever...a towering work of authority" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Jacobson's humour is unashamedly savage and his jokes as sharp as a switch-blade...comic vitriol worthy of Evelyn Waugh" (Sunday Express)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I first read this book, I was not bowled over by it, but as time went by a nagging thought in my mind became increasingly apparent – “You have to read this book again.” And thank goodness I did; The Mighty Walzer is a minor masterpiece.
I think the main reason I love this book so much is that Walzer is something of an anti-hero, but sympathetic nevertheless – Alexander Portnoy rather than Holden Caulfield. He is a character with whom any teenage misfit is able to identify.
The novel’s humour is largely down to Jacobson’s deadpan delivery, without which the book would be much more heavy-going. There are moments which misfire – I was not convinced of the necessity of the Cambridge scenes, though maybe necessity is not the point – Jacobson is telling a story, and not everything in life makes sense. I found the reunion scenes particularly powerful.
I would urge anybody to read this book, but would advise that some prior knowledge of Yiddish (or at least Hebrew or German) could be useful. “The Joys of Yiddish” by Leo Rosten is a sound investment for the first-time Yiddish-user.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel excels on many different levels; funny, informative, critical, moral, philosophical, metaphysical, the detailed grind of daily life in poverty and striving to emerge from it, sport, technique and the value of winning and losing, love and it's elusiveness, the child in permanent battle with its upbringing and perhaps its genes, sex as motivator and relief, family, friendship, community, immigration and integration, richness of cultures, origins and evolution, education, career, memory and truth, and death. Just to name a few of the elements which spring to mind. The novel grasped my attention and did not let go even after the last page was turned. Hence this short review. A great novel and fantastic, perhaps historic achievement.
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Format: Hardcover
There are certain novels where the author finally makes good on all the promise that he's previously shown (think Martin Amis' "London Fields"). In "Walzer," Jacobson is able to combine his misanthropic humor with a genuinely touching coming-of-age story. No doubt the author is tired of reviews that compare him to Mordecai Richler, but with this book he has surpassed Richler and come into his own. This book is both funny and sad, and I cannot recommend it more highly.
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Format: Paperback
One of Jacobson's great strengths is his facility with language. His prose style is wonderful, full of beautifully constructed passages which read as natural and unfeigned. This book demonstrates that skill throughout.

Another great strength is his humour, which here made me laugh out loud at times, and at others brought a wry smile.

The story is excellent, and his characters are vivid and well drawn.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Howard Jacobson shot to fame when he won the 2010 Booker Prize with the Finkler Question. I was put off the winning novel itself by various comments, so was tempted to try out one of his earlier stories instead.

I liked it. He gels an engaging tale around adolescence, Jewish family life , playing table tennis, and working on his dad's market stall. He pokes plenty of fun along the way in his self-confident, slightly dry style.

I find Jacobson's non-fiction scintillating. He is penetrating, original, and has always got something interesting to say. I thought his fiction on the other hand, although witty, was perhaps a shade ordinary.

I enjoyed it but I don't think I'll rush to sample his other novels - I'll read `Whatever it is, I Don't Like it' next.
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By A Customer on 27 Nov. 1999
Format: Hardcover
Howard Jacobson's most recent novel, The Mighty Walzer, is not only amusing, but beautifully written, so it offers the reader something more substantial than mere entertainment. The characters are at once original and recognizable. The setting is Jewish North Manchester in the nineteen-fifties and the hero is a teenage ping pong champion, but the content has more universal interest than either ping pong or North Manchester. Do buy it for someone for Hanukkah or for Christmas, and make sure you borrow it and read it yourself.
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Format: Paperback
I must admit i did laugh out loud at some of the episodes in this, my first, Jacobson. He is a very clever writer and with the Jewish, post war, likely lad nostalgic humour this a bit like Philip Roth crossed with Woody Allen in an Only Fools and Horses setting. Jacobson is extremely funny in his mock philosophic analysis of table tennis and there are lots of little coming of age episodes to keep the reader amused along with the obligatory dysfunctional family, his street trader father, spinster aunts and classic jewish mother. There is poignancy too and the book, although over long, does move you to ponder profound questions but fundamentally it's the comic adventures of young Waltzer. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
The Mighty Walzer is a little over-egged; and is mining quite middle class territory - the deprivations you get from getting changed in full view in Marks And Spencers, say. But it is good; the visual pictures are stunning and the characterisation is fine - Mr. Jacob senior (we take it in all it's autobiographical detail0 is a great creation and very amusing.

The Mighty Walzer is told in a fine lyrical prose and would lend itself very well to being filmed. Manchester in the 1950's comes across well and the childhood of boys is evoked finely. Tips of the hat to Mr. Roth and also something of the sensibility of Salman Rushdie.

Howard Jacobson is no thriller writer and the plot could do with a bit of strengthening (for my taste and inclining years). Minor criticisms aside, The Mighty Walzer is a good read.
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