Fiction Howard Jacobson Very Model of a Man

ISBN 13: 9780140167245

Very Model of a Man

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9780140167245: Very Model of a Man

This is, in part the story of Cain and Abel, told from the point of view of Cain. It is also about the nature of family relationships and sibling rivalry and about Jewishness. Along the way the book makes observations about skin problems among angels and pre-Freudian psychological complexities.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A smug novel that aspires to rip the lid off religious convention and conviction. Jacobson (Roots Schmoots, 1994, etc.) tackles the Hebrew Scriptures in this new effort. Narrated by Cain, the first murderer and the founder of the first city, the life led by Adam and his family is far different than that portrayed by the pious chroniclers of the Bible. Though the group has already been expelled from Eden, creation is far from complete. The Earth still vibrates with the energy of formation, and to even stamp one's foot is to set in motion a chain of reactions that could lead to some bizarre new species. And there is plenty of reason to stamp one's foot. The omnipresent deity is getting on humanity's nerves, and any attempt to discuss the matter leads to divine punishment because God is decidedly thin-skinned. Adam abuses Cain because the boy is the only thing in the world that he's not afraid of. To top things off, the new baby, Abel, is getting all of Eve's attention, leaving Cain feeling deprived. The boy vows that, even though he loves his brother, he will nonetheless kill him. The novel bounces back and forth between this story and Babel, where an aged Cain is telling his tale in a kind of one-man show for the amusement of the cynical citizenry, who crave entertainment and lack both a theology and a sense of humor. Also related are the stories of the Exodus and of Korah, a cousin of Moses and Aaron who led a rebellion against their leadership and authority. Lurking at the edges of it all is the mysterious Sisobk the Scryer, a member of a Cainite cult that has grown up around the fratricide. Condescension and anachronisms mar what comes across as second-rate Joseph Heller or Philip Roth. Jacobson looks into faith and sees only dark corners. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

As he has proved in previous books (Coming from Behind, etc.), British writer Jacobson is nothing if not daring; he is not afraid to take on the canons of social respectability and religious doctrine. His fifth novel proves characteristically iconoclastic in outlook but stylistically too mannered by half. Here Cain relates his troubles from the fall of man to the tower of Babel, and at first the narrative is arresting, as Cain mutters asides about God, a spiteful, lecherous tyrant who has "an unerring instinct for divisiveness" and about his parents, portrayed in unlovely physical detail (reminding the reader of Lucien Freud paintings). But Cain's voice eventually becomes tiresome and the story inert. Intellectually arrogant and mocking, Cain is also a virulent misogynist, directing his surly behavior mainly against his girlfriend, Zilpah. His abusive language is part of the laundry-list description that comes to typify the storytelling. Because Cain's perspective is unremittingly narcissistic, the other characters-Eve, Adam, Abel and Zilpah-are cardboard extensions of his self-absorption. Clearly Jacobson can write, for there are many good literary moments that stand out against the pedantic litany of much of the book. But the novel remains crashingly dull, not to mention relentlessly unfunny.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Howard Jacobson
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ISBN 10: 0140167242 ISBN 13: 9780140167245
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