yiddish.jpgThere are a few Jewish hipster writers coming out with books this Spring that demand your attention. Most notably,Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) has one due for release next month. The Yiddish Policemen’s Club, whose film rights have already been sold, takes place in present time in Alaska but has more of a 40’s film noir vibe. Chabon has been pretty much MIA for the past seven years so I’m hoping this novel lives up to all its hype. I’m pretty sure it will.

Next on the roster, Howard Jacobson, a British author, has also been receiving rave reviews for Kalooki Nights which is a story about two comic book writers in Manchester, England. The book sheds some light on Mancunian Jewish culture which for that reason alone might be worth a read.

And lastly, the book I’m most anticipating and whose author was just interviewed in the NY Times Magazine yesterday, Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases which is set in Argentina in the late 70s and whose main character bears the name Kaddish. What does Kaddish do for a living? Erases the inscriptions on tombstones of course. Kaddish’s own face becomes erased eventually by a botched-up nose job, but more to the point this is a father/son story set during politically tumultuous times in a foreign land written by a Long Island suburban jew boy.

Last sentence sound like a mouthful? In case I haven’t emphasized my affection for Englander’s work enough, he’s been compared to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Phillip Roth, and John Cheever. If I’ve sufficiently peaked your curiosity, go here to listen to a collection from his book of short stories entitled For The Relief of Unbearable Urges.

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  • Yeah, um…

    Michael Chabon is totally a “Jewish Hipster Writer”.


  • And Howard Jacobson? Hipster? And, for that matter, Nathan Englander?

    Does “hipster” mean “Person who is alive”?

  • Oooooh. You’ve offended the hipsters Beth! Kind of like calling the Cure an alternative band… the purists will scoff! But despite their success, for most Americans, the Cure really was alternative. Now they’re just retro kitsch.

    So Chabon and Jacobson may be too well known to be considered true “hipsters” to those who frequent the two divey bars left on the LES, but to the rest of America they are young, relatively fresh and somewhat unconventional Jewish voices. That makes ’em hipsters in Brookline, though maybe not so much in Brooklyn.

    So fucking what?

  • ck,

    Alas, little buddy, you misunderstand. I am not a “hipster.” The way I see it, a hipster is an annoyingly self-conscious dolt who values style over substance. As each of the people she mentioned are accomplished, hard-working, brilliantly talented writers, the “hipster” label — while convenient shorthand in uninformed blogs — does not apply.

    Admittedly, everybody defines it differently. To you, I’m guessing “hipster” is any Orthodox Jew who uses the phrases “y’all” and “just sayin’.”

    As for youth, Howard Jacobson is 64 years old. Granted, for a man of your age that’s young, but still.


  • Also: hipsters are douchebags.

    Case in point: Kelsey (I say that with love)

    I hear Chabon is a pretty nice guy.

  • Heh. EV can win all the rounds he wants! EV is astute and erudite and I would sooner fight an army of zombies than even contemplate a ridiculously imbalanced battle of wit and charm against a clearly superior foe like him. What do I know from culture? What do I know from angst. In my simple unidimensional world, a slam dunk is when you get the ball in the basket forcefully. From above. Slam!

    Thanks for pointing out my error though. I really meant Englander and not Jacobson. Blame it on Orthodox imposed Matza overload that caused brain addled-ness. Mea Culpa!

    As for the “hipster” label – there’s the way that it is perceived in the insular world of certain New York Jews, and the way Middle American Jews perceive it. It’s not the same as goy hipsters. If you are surly and judgmental and of the Mosaic persuasion, you may be a Jew Hipster. If you draw really demented Jewish themed comics, you may be a Jew hipster. If you’ve written an obscure book with an eastern European theme, you may be a Jew hipster. If you work in a Jewish communal setting but are quietly writing a novel about all the Jews you know but have given them pseudonyms so you don’t get in trouble, and once you finish it man is it gonna make people uncomfortable and envious and then those women will really regret not getting with you when they had the chance, you may be a Jew hipster. If you’ve walked by Max Fish or Yoni Shimmels or Katz’s Deli or eyed the bondage gear at Babeland in the last 3 months, you may be a Jewish Hipster. If you have anything to do with Heeb or Jewschool or Reboot or Jewcy, if you lust after both slightly off the derech frum chicks AND Columbia theater majors and, well, everyone, you may be a Jewish hipster.

    I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get my point. Y’all. I was just sayin’ – but in every other respect, I am in full agreement with both EV and Balaam’s Donkey.


  • Touche, my friend.

    Not that any of the above applies to me.

    Except for the bondage gear.

  • Can’t eally call Chabon missing in action when:

    — he’s written a well-received novella (The Final Solution)
    — edited a few McSweeney’s collections of “genre fiction” to which he has contributed stories.
    — has been publishing a serialized novel in the NYTimes magazine for the past few months.

    — and of course writing the forthcoming novel.

    None of these projects is exactly the great american novel, but he’s hardly Nathan Englander in his lack of output.