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The Mighty Walzer
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'Poignant, moving, hilarious...laugh-out-loud funny...the sort of book that might change your life' - Observer

About the Author

Howard Jacobson has written fourteen novels and five works of non-fiction. He won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award in 2000 for The Mighty Walzer and then again in 2013 for Zoo Time. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question and was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for his most recent novel, J.

Reviews

"Jacobson is a great storyteller: phrases, anecdotes and atmosphere roll off the page with the ease and sublime, scary grace of drunken eels...he is unsurpassable" * The Times *
"This mature novel has the sustained exuberance and passion of his youthful writing...an achingly funny book...an amazing acheivement... There are few novelists today who can imbue the trifles of life with such poetry" * Independent *
"Marvellous. Jacobson has not just written the first great novel about ping-pong. He has written one of the greatest sporting novels ever...a towering work of authority" * Sunday Telegraph *
"Jacobson's humour is unashamedly savage and his jokes as sharp as a switch-blade...comic vitriol worthy of Evelyn Waugh" * Sunday Express *

First published in the U.K. in 1999, the stateside latest (after The Finkler Question) from Man Booker-winner Jacobson chronicles the mordantly funny (and highly autobiographical) coming-of-age of Oliver Walzer as he contends with his neurotic Jewish family in 1950s Manchester, England; struggles to find his way with the ladies; and, most crucially, develops into a Ping-Pong champion. At the heart of the novel is the intertwining of the sport and Oliver's burgeoning love life ("Even my erotic dreams had a ping-pong component"). Walzer is deeply anxious about his sexuality, creating elaborate collages combining his family's photo albums and pinups from lad magazines, but it's a trip to the Akiva social club that proves fateful for the awkward adolescent, as it's there where he meets the older boys of the local Ping-Pong team who lead him, for better or worse, to an improved Ping-Pong game and something of an understanding of women. Jacobson spares no painful or uncomfortable moments, and while the notion of a novel of Ping-Pong may not sound like the most enticing offer, Jacobson writes with such verve, and his sense of humor is so sharp, that he could turn a novel of basket weaving into a ripsnorter. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

This earlier title by Jacobson, the 2010 Booker Prize winner for The Finkler Question, is further proof that the author deserves his literary reputation. A funny and perceptive coming-of-age story, it follows Oliver Walzer, member of an extended Jewish family in 1950s Manchester, England. Surrounded by aunts and steeped in the culture brought over from eastern Europe, Oliver starts as a shy and observant youth who begins to discover himself and the world through his natural gift as a Ping-Pong player. As the years progress, Oliver and his mates also discover girls, and the novel follows his sexual awakening and maturing, as told from the perspective of a painfully self-conscious, perspicacious, and somewhat cynical teenager. Oliver moves beyond his local roots and attends Cambridge but later in life returns to Manchester for a visit. Memorable characters populate this novel, which is rife with so many Britishisms and Yiddishisms that a glossary might have been handy. VERDICT Readers of literary fiction should be acquainted with one of Jacobson's works, and Finkler may be the easiest choice. Beyond that, this new work is brilliant, funny, engaging, and strongly recommended.-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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