Print Review: Shylock is My Name

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Shylock is My Name
By Howard Jacobson
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): October 11, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0804141345
LITERARY FICTION

Shylock is My Name starts off with a sort of colloquy between Simon Strulovitch and Shylock as they discuss Jewish identity, humor, and families (especially the relationships between fathers and daughters.) Then the story kicks into gear as Simon lives out the 16th century play, The Merchant of Venice against the backdrop of an upscale neighborhood in 21st century England.

It is not clear whether Shylock is a literary revenant incarnate and/or an alter ego made manifest under the pressure Simon is under. The initialism of the novel’s title, “SIMN” serves as a possible allusion to the schizophrenic nature of the heroic element; but the double-protagonist scheme does not break down so it is possible that Howard Jacobson simply created a contemporary Shylock, complete with fedora. The conversations tend to be excessively neurotic and introspective, often encumbering the overall story line even as the action line surfaces. The comic elements feel a bit forced; and the humor dry and subtle.

Highly recommend reading William Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice beforehand. Those with an affinity for Jewish literature may also find this more rewarding than those who do not.

OTHER: I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Shylock is My Name  (by Howard Jacobson) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

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