Friday, June 22, 2007

The Yiddish Policemens Union

by Michael Chabon
In the late 1930s, FDR's Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, came up with a solution for the millions of Jews leaving Europe: give them a temporary home in Alaska. No one, (save, well, the natives) was using that land, and here are all these people with no place to go. Give them 50 years up there, and when the middle east cools down, they can move to their promised land. Ickes' idea died when it got to Congress. But in Michael Chabon's latest novel, the idea became a reality, and now, in 2007, for the 3 million Jews' living in the frozen metropolis of Sitka, Alaska, time is running out. Meyer Landsman, a down-on-his-luck detective, couldn't care less; he's more interested in solving the murder of a man living downstairs from him in the same shabby apartment building. Landsman's investigations take him into every nook and cranny of this strange but familiar city, which seems the perfect noir setting. In fact, Sitka exaggerates all the noir conventions beautifully. Not only does our hero struggle with his melancholic streak, his entire culture does. Not only is he living on borrowed time, the whole city is. Evocatively written, imaginative, poignant and darkly funny.

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