Enough jabs at law and criminal justice to make a point, all packaged in a courtroom drama that’s pure entertainment.

Something Is Rotten In Fettig

Krakoff’s debut satire delivers the tale of modest kosher butcher Leopold Plotkin, whose simple act of smearing mud on his shop window leads to a grandiose trial.

Leopold’s been socially awkward since he was a little boy in Fettig, capital city of the Republic. Once his family bequeaths him the butcher shop, he’s uncomfortable displaying his snazzy meat-cutting skills to draw customers. So when that fails to boost sales, Leopold opts for covering the display window with mud. Fettigians, however, are upset, seeing the shrouding of a commercial window as an affront to capitalism. Ensuing protests and demonstrations ultimately become so rowdy that authorities arrest Leopold and throw him in the Purgatory House of Detention for instigating the Mud Crisis. And so begins this farcical take on the justice system, in which a criminal trial commences with a lawyer’s “Opening Rant,” and the prosecution must prove “beyond a Nagging Doubt” that the accused is guilty. Leopold faces seemingly impossible odds. Presiding Justice Stifel, for one, is so convinced of Leopold’s guilt that he overrules every objection from the defense—decreeing each one an interruption—and asks the jury for a verdict before a single witness has even testified. Fortunately, Leopold has employee, pal, and chicken plucker Primo Astigmatopolous and childhood friend Ana Bloom on his side, so there may be a slight chance of an acquittal. Krakoff’s satirical slant definitely has bite—Stifel accessing the courtroom via a dumbwaiter, for example, speaks volumes. But the uproarious novel is first and foremost a comedy, rife with absurdist humor. Some of it is even a comedy of errors: public defender Felix Bleifus, unaware that Leopold’s a butcher, is terrified when he spots blood on his potential client’s shirt. “Unlike most of my competitors,” Leopold says, “I do my own slaughtering.” Krakoff, though, still manages a coherent, engrossing plot. His good-natured protagonist is easy to like, and readers will surely be on edge during the trial, particularly because at least one juror, who admits to despising Leopold, has all but convicted him.

Enough jabs at law and criminal justice to make a point, all packaged in a courtroom drama that’s pure entertainment.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-68114-197-8

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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