Set in the future — a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited — J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.
Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn't know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn't then, and isn't now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn't ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren't sure if they have fallen in love of their own accord, or whether they've been pushed into each other's arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?
Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe — a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened.
J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, thought-provoking and life-changing. It is like no other novel that Howard Jacobson has written.
Pussy is the story of Prince Fracassus, heir presumptive to the Duchy of Origen, famed for its golden-gated skyscrapers and casinos, who passes his boyhood watching reality shows on TV, imagining himself to be the Roman Emperor Nero, and fantasizing about hookers. He is idle, boastful, thin-skinned and egotistic; has no manners, no curiosity, no knowledge, no idea and no words in which to express them. Could he, in that case, be the very leader to make the country great again?
Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson brings his singular brilliance to this modern re-imagining of one of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable characters: Shylock.
Winter, a cemetery, Shylock. In this provocative and profound interpretation of “The Merchant of Venice,” Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge. While Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice's “betrayal” of her family and heritage — as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field — Shylock alternates grief for his beloved wife with rage against his own daughter's rejection of her Jewish upbringing. Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock’s demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson’s insightful retelling examines contemporary, acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity while maintaining a poignant sympathy for its characters and a genuine spiritual kinship with its antecedent — a drama which Jacobson himself considers to be “the most troubling of Shakespeare’s plays for anyone, but, for an English novelist who happens to be Jewish, also the most challenging.”
In The Very Model of a Man, Jacobson takes on the Hebrew scriptures and rewrites religious history with his customary brand of ink-black humour. Adam and Eve have just been expelled from the Garden of Eden by a furious God, and their first-born son Cain reflects bitterly on the family’s miserable existence in a bleak, half-formed world in which one angry foot-stamp can send new, unnamed species scurrying from the wet clay. To make matters worse, his new brother Abel is claiming all his mother’s attention, and a jealous and petulant Old Testament deity will stop at nothing to create upheaval within the first family.
Shifting between Cain’s post-Eden days, when righteous fire is just as likely to descend from the heavens as rapacious angels, to his vagrant-like existence in the city of Babel following Abel’s murder, The Very Model of a Man swipes ruthlessly through biblical conventions. Questioning thousands of years of doctrine, the word of God and the very nature of Jewishness, it is above all a thrilling and touching tale from one of our greatest living storytellers.