Solomon Kugel wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere, to be in a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any import has ever happened there, which is exactly why Kugel decided to move his family there. To begin again ...
Solomon Kugel wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere, to be in a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any import has ever happened there, which is exactly why Kugel decided to move his family there. To begin again. To start anew. But it isn't quite working out that way. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won't stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one he bought, and he fears his is next. And when, one night, Kugel discovers history -- a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history -- hiding in his attic, bad very quickly becomes worse. Like nothing you've read before, the critically acclaimed Shalom Auslander's debut novel is a hilarious and disquieting examination of the burdens and abuse of history, propelled with unstoppable rhythm and filled with existential musings and mordant wit. 'Scabrous and determinedly iconoclastic ...one of the funniest and most thought-provoking novels you'll read all year' Sunday Times 'A wonderful, twisted, trangressive, heartbreaking, true, and hugely funny book. It will make very many people angry. It will also make very many people very happy.' A. L. Kennedy, author of Day 'Auslander writes like some contemporary comedic Jeremiah, thundering warnings of disaster and retribution. What makes him so terrifyingly funny is that he isn't joking.' Howard Jacobson, author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 'Can the darkest events of the twentieth century and of all human history be used to show the folly of hope? And can the result be so funny that you burst out laughing again and again? If you doubt this is possible, read Hope: A Tragedy. You won't regret it.' John Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
Publishers Weekly, 2011-10-31 Cultural anthropologists trying to figure out if there really is a recognizably Jewish voice and sense of humor, and if so, how it mixes and matches its key elements of self-deprecation, mordant compliance, hypochondria, and a total lack of surprise when disaster occurs, should consider Auslander's debut novel. The author's memoir, Foreskin's Lament, was about growing up in and leaving the Orthodox Jewish community; this novel's hero, Solomon Kugel, isn't observant, but he's still locked into a relationship with a God he "could never believe in... but he could never not believe in, either." And with a mother who insists she's a Holocaust survivor, major money problems, a farmhouse that's not only on the hit list of a local arsonist but also features an unwanted occupant in the attic, he's fully immersed in what Philip Roth (an obvious influence, down to a shared obsession with Anne Frank) once called "the incredible drama of being a Jew." Things start out hilarious and if the book wanes a bit as life keeps getting worse for Kugel, God's plaything, that's okay. As funny as it is, the novel is also a philosophical treatise, a response-ambivalent, irreverent, and almost certainly offensive to some-to the question of whether art and life are possible after the Holocaust, an examination of how to "never forget" without, as Kugel's infamous attic occupant puts it, "never shutting up about it." (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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