[I recommend any and all of Chabon’s work.  He has a great sense of humor and a truly remarkable way with words.  This novel is unique for it’s written in the hard-boiled detective style yet takes place in a wholly imagined time and place.  I smiled and chuckled throughout my reading of it – to an extent that may have caused some concern in passersby.  A highly enjoyable read as I hope these quotes reflect.  It’s great to be able to recommend someone who is relatively young and has many good writing years ahead.  Oh, almost forgot to mention that The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is also a compelling mystery!  –  jbm 6/2/2018]

“But the truth is that Landsman has only two moods:  working and dead.”

“The problem comes in the hours when he isn’t working, when his thoughts start blowing out the open window of his brain like pages from a blotter.  Sometimes it takes a heavy paperweight to pin them down.”

“Come out,” he says, lips dry, rasping like a scared old fart.”

“The elation he experienced on the roof has cooled like blown filament.  His nights are wasted, his life and career a series of mistakes, his city itself a bulb that is about to go black.”

“Even the most casual study of the record, Landsman thinks, would show that strange times to be a Jew have almost always been, as well, strange times to be a chicken.”

“…the place has all the allure of a dehumidifier.”

“Shpringer is a fireplug, his bowed legs and simian arms affixed to his neck without apparent benefit of shoulders.  His face is mostly jowl and his ridged forehead looks like one of those domed beehives you see representing Industry in medieval woodcuts.”

“Your father played chess,” Hertz Shemets once said, “like a man with a toothache, a hemorrhoid, and gas.”

“By now they were all staunch Alaskan Jews, which meant they were Utopians, which meant they saw imperfection everywhere they looked.”

“The drip-filter coffee maker hawks and spits like a decrepit Jewish policeman after ten flights of steps.”

“Berko Shemets is observant, but in his own way and for his own reasons.  He is a Minotaur, and the world of Jews is his labyrinth.”

“Landsman’s congratulations are so ironic that they are heartfelt, and they are so heartfelt that they can only come off as insincere, and he and his partner sit there for a while, not going anywhere, listening to them congeal.”

“Landsman was married to her for twelve years, working the same Homicide squad for five.  He is sensitive to her moods.”

“Bina accepts a compliment as if it’s a can of soda that she suspects him of having shaken.”

“By one kind of reckoning, she owes Landsman seventeen favors;  by another , she ought to give him a punch in the belly.”

“It takes a sour woman to make a good pickle.”

“His resurgent confidence in himself and his intentions, the sense of well-being, is clearly an illusion produced by a snort of lousy vodka.  He rationalizes this with the thought that from the point of view of, say, God, all human confidence is an illusion and every intention a joke.”

“In the past, it has struck him that, apart from homosexuals, only chess players have found a reliable way to bridge, intensely but without fatal violence, the gulf that separates any given pair of men.”

“The sky has turned steely, the wind had died, and the air crackles with the alchemy of children and the promise of snow.”

“Madness, the reliable madness of Landsman.”

“It’s not impossible that they fell in love.  They were both past the age of foolish passion, so they were passionate without being fools.”

“The boundary maven’s faith in faithlessness had been shaken by a simple question – How is she? – by a dozen words of blessing, by a simple bishop move that seemed to imply a chess beyond the chess that Zimbalist knew.”

“Everybody loves it when the prodigal returns, expect for the guy that’s been sleeping in his pajamas.”

“My Saturday night is like a microwave burrito.  Very tough to ruin something that starts out so bad to begin with.”

“Landsman can hear them talking about him in the hushed tones reserved for madmen, assholes, and unwanted guests.”

“He was making a nice policeman-like distinction between the things that balls could accomplish and those that the breakers of balls would never permit.”

“He’s too superstitious not to see this as a bad omen, but when you’re a pessimist, all omens are bad.”

“He had been born, like every Jew, into the wrong world, the wrong country, at the wrong time, and now he was living in the wrong body, too.  In the end maybe it was that sense of wrongness, that fist in the Jewish belly, binding Alter Litvak to the cause of the yids who had made him their general.”

“Landsman considers the things that remain his to lose:  a porkpie hat.  A travel chess set and a Polaroid picture of a dead messiah.  A boundary map of Sitka, profane, ad hoc, encyclopedic, crime scenes and low dives and chokeberry brambles, printed on the tangles of his brain…The neon marquee of the Baranof Theatre reflected on wet asphalt, colors running like watercolor as you come out of a showing of Welles’s Heart of Darkness, which you have just seen for the third time, with the girl of your dreams on your arm.”

“The space recently occupied by his mind hisses like the fog in his ears, hums like a bank of fluorescent tubes.  He feels that he suffers from tinnitus of the soul.”

“Bina looks like hell, only hotter.”


copyright:  2007 Michael Chabon
author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michael-Chabon
photo:  HarperCollins Publishers