The Mighty Walzer Paperback – 6 Apr 2000
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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.
"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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this coming of age novel. Very funny, laughed out load LOL - found the Yiddish wonderful.Published 1 month ago by Ruth Ash
Love Howard Jacobson. Not my favourite but still worth spending time with.Published on 19 Aug. 2014 by Celia A
This is the latest highly entertaining Howard Jacobsen look at life but here we have his insights into a Jewish family seen through the eyes of a son experimenting with experiences... Read morePublished on 7 Feb. 2014 by M. J. M. Mills
This is a really funny, intelligent and wonderful book. The reader really gets inside the head of the main character and wants to cheer him on through life's set backs and... Read morePublished on 8 Sept. 2013 by Lectrice
I love this mans work ,and this is a good read but the author is always so full of angst and black dog moods .Published on 17 Jun. 2013 by buggsy
loved the book - love the author. reminds me of growing up in manchester in the fifties. very nostalgic. thanksPublished on 1 April 2013 by Robert. Ferrieux
Highly recommended, lost my husband for days until he finished it. He says it was a fantastic read. I am going to read it myself and will get back to you allPublished on 27 Mar. 2013 by Cate
THE MIGHTY WALTZER .. BY HOWARD JACOBSON
Heard this on radio 4 but read the book yet This will be for over the holiday period when the usual dross is on tv and radio