Life Bad, Book Good
“Jacobson’s earlier novels have been compared with some frequency to Philip Roth’s. That’s been easier to see in books like ‘Kalooki Nights’ and ‘The Finkler Question,’ which borrow against the restless sexuality of the 1950s and Zionist politics, respectively. It’s harder to see Roth in the thrilling and enigmatic refractions of ‘J,’ whose subtle profundities and warm intelligence are Jacobson’s own. But in its bracing recognition that some conflicts are irresolvable, as is conflict itself, there is something of Roth, I think. So too in the stoical acceptance (if that’s what it is) of the book’s brutal conclusion. ‘J’ is not a joyful book, by any means, but its insistent vitality offers something more than horror: a vision of the world in which even the unsayable can, almost, be explained.”
— If you still read novels, Howard Jacobson’s J
is a novel you should read, particularly if you would like your belief in our inherent terribleness reaffirmed.