Lit Gloss

Yiddish Policeman's Union Goes Multigenre

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 27, 2008

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A few weeks ago it was announced that Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union won the Hugo Award, presented each year by the World Science Fiction Society. Union, a wildly popular speculative fiction that imagines what might've happened if Harold Ickes' proposal had been implemented and Jews were remanded to Sitka, Alaska, in the 1940s, won for best novel in a triumph of quality writing over genre boundaries. Union also won the top Nebula Award, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers organization, and was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Chabon (pronounced SHAY-bon) is well-known to mainstream audiences. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the Pulitzer, and Wonder Boys was made into a movie with Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. But now he's penetrated several subgenres--and subcultures, including the world of chess. The book's noir mystery turns on a chess problem, a zugzwang. Chess champ (and Philly native) Jennifer Shahade wrote about the book for the U.S. Chess Federation's website, saying, "I love chess problems myself, but [Chabon's] does not rank among the most elegant demonstrations of zugzwang." She went on to say, however: "Like a book of chess problems with the beginning and endings cut off, what's memorable in Chabon's book is a series of shiny sentences and scenes filled with emotional truth." If you're a chess nerd like I am, go to main.uschess.org for the problem's solution. But you should really just read the book. No matter your background or tastes, you'll probably like it.

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