Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Harper Perennial, 2008
This is a hard book to describe. It's highly readable, but also definitely strange. It's an alternate history -- imagine a world in which Israel does not exist and instead displaced Jews were given southeast Alaska as a refuge, an autonomous territory within the United States.
Alternative history has been around for a long time. It's a staple in utopian fiction, and it's also a tried and true technique for science fiction and fantasy -- time lines and/or universes where Lincoln wasn't shot, various monarchs either died young or lived a lot longer than in our world, different discoveries were never made. The possibilities are endless. Somehow, though, Chabon came up with a scenario that I'm sure has to be one of the most implausible I've seen in a long time. Even more implausibly, he makes it work.
In short, the book is a really good read. I'm not sure what inspired me to buy it, but I was glad I did -- and now I'm ready to pass it along, for a price. The book is a trade paperback. $6.50 plus $3.00 for media mail shipping, and it's yours.