Review: ‘J’ by Howard Jacobson

November 8, 2014 6:33 PM

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Review: ‘J’ by Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson is getting harder to ignore. The 72-year-old British writer has been publishing witty novels for more than three decades and attracting the sort of critical acclaim earned by such stars as Peter Carey and Margaret Atwood. But he remains stubbornly obscure in the United States. The Finkler Question, his cerebral satire about anti-Semitism, won the 2010 Booker Prize (he’d been longlisted twice before), and his new novel, J, was on the shortlist for this year’s prize. All that success abroad raises The Jacobson Question: Why are American readers so uninterested?

1. People who buy literary fiction in this country tend to regard comic novels as though they’re mushrooms in the forest: possibly delicious, but not worth the risk. We'll stick with this 800-page bildungsroman, thank you very much.

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