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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Finkler Question

The Finkler Question
Howard Jacobson
Bloomsbury, 2010

Julian Treslove, a radio producer, and Samuel Finkler, a Jewish philosopher, have been friends since childhood and, as they enter middle age, they reminisce over their struggles with self-identity, anti-Semitism, women, love, and the past.

Julian is a rather boring self-indulgent middle age man who does a lot of philosophical questioning that I tired of rather quickly. He probably would deny this, but there’s a part of him that wishes he were Jewish like his good friend Finkler, even though the reader may wonder how Julian could consider him a friend while sleeping with his wife, but I digress. Julian is not happy, and it’s easy to see why. He is not close to his sons or his sons’ mothers. He spends a lot of time wishing things were different with his relationships, his job, his family and his self-esteem. In fact, a crisis of sorts occurs when a woman attacks him and says something he doesn’t understand but which he persuades himself is anti-Semitic in nature. His obsession with this attack becomes so severe that he decides to investigate what it would be like to be Jewish, to be more like Finkler, hence the “Finkler Question.”

You should know that this won the Mann Booker Prize and was given starred reviews by review journals. Which means, of course, that I hated it. I’ve decided that I really don’t like books in which self-absorbed men obsess and worry about things so much that the whole book features their philosophical musings and mental what-ifs. Who cares? As my good friend Debbie would say, “blah, blah, woof, woof.” I wanted to smack Julian and tell him to stop contemplating his own navel for one minute and actually do something! I couldn’t finish the book. Ugh.

Other books by this author:
The Making of Henry (2004)
Kalooki Nights (2006)
The Act of Love (2008)

Other books you may enjoy:
The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (2007)
A tale told from the parallel perspectives of two possible timelines considers the life of American expatriate Irena McGovern, who in one reality stays faithful to her disciplined American intellectual partner, and in the other runs off with an exuberant British long-time friend.

Therapy by David Lodge (1995)
Faced with a mid-life crisis, a successful, overweight television writer embarks on a quest for the answer to his spiritual anxiety and encounters therapists, the police, Soren Kierkegaard, and strange new bedfellows.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
Moving into the attic room in the Notting Hill home of the wealthy, politically connected Fedden family in 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest becomes caught up in the rising fortunes of this glamorous family and finds his own life forever altered by his association during the boom years of the 1980s. div> >

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