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Jews with swords: ‘Gentleman of the Road’

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 18, 2008 | 4:11 pm

Let’s face it: we Jews were never really the sword-carrying type. And that’s a good thing because you know what they say about those who live by the sword.

But, it’s amusing to read about Jews with swords in Michael Chabon’s latest novel, “Gentlemen of the Road.”

Originally published earlier this year in serial installments in the New York Times Magazine, the book follows the exploits of a pair of 10th century Jews — Amram and Zelikman — who pursue adventure throughout the Caucasus Mountains. They fight with swords and battle-axes, swindle tavern dwellers, perform daring acts of thievery and ultimately help raise a rebel army to overthrow the man who usurped the throne of the Khazar Empire from its rightful owner.

That’s a lot to get through in 196 pages but with Chabon’s fine storytelling abilities, our heroes make it from beginning to end without leaving the reader feeling rushed.

That’s from Jewish Literary Review. Such fond phrases come as no surprise. Chabon is, quite simply, a master. I finished last week “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” which reminded me poignantly of his ability with a pen. (Coupled with “swords,” mentioning “pen” reminds me of a couple of Sean Connery SNL sketches.)

As for Jews with swords, sometimes they’ve wielded them well. Other times not so much.

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