Cover image for Muck / Dror Burstein ; translated from the Hebrew by Gabriel Levin.
Title:
Muck / Dror Burstein ; translated from the Hebrew by Gabriel Levin.
ISBN:
9780374215835
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018
Physical Description:
406 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in Hebrew in 2016 by Keter, Israel, as Ṭiṭ.
Abstract:
In a Jerusalem both ancient and modern, where the First Temple squats over the populace like a Trump casino, where the streets are literally crawling with prophets and heathen helicopters buzz over Old Testament sovereigns, two young poets are about to have their lives turned upside down. Struggling Jeremiah is worried that he might be wasting his time trying to be a writer; the great critic Broch just beat him over the head with his own computer keyboard. Mattaniah, on the other hand, is a real up-and-comer--but he has a secret he wouldn't want anyone in the literary world to know: his late father was king of Judah. Jeremiah begins to despair, and in that despair has a vision: that Jerusalem is doomed, and that Mattaniah will not only be forced to ascend to the throne but will thereafter witness his people slaughtered and exiled. But what does it mean to tell a friend and rival that his future is bleak? What sort of grudges and biases turn true vision into false prophecy? Can the very act of speaking a prediction aloud make it come true? And, if so, does that make you a seer, or just a schmuck? -- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

"Those who lament that the novel has lost its prophecy should pay heed and cover-price: Muck is the future, both of Jerusalem and of literature. God is showing some rare good taste, by choosing to speak to us through Dror Burstein." --Joshua Cohen, author of Moving Kings and Book of Numbers

In a Jerusalem both ancient and modern, where the First Temple squats over the populace like a Trump casino, where the streets are literally crawling with prophets and heathen helicopters buzz over Old Testament sovereigns, two young poets are about to have their lives turned upside down.

Struggling Jeremiah is worried that he might be wasting his time trying to be a writer; the great critic Broch just beat him over the head with his own computer keyboard. Mattaniah, on the other hand, is a real up-and-comer--but he has a secret he wouldn't want anyone in the literary world to know: his late father was king of Judah.

Jeremiah begins to despair, and in that despair has a vision: that Jerusalem is doomed, and that Mattaniah will not only be forced to ascend to the throne but will thereafter witness his people slaughtered and exiled. But what does it mean to tell a friend and rival that his future is bleak? What sort of grudges and biases turn true vision into false prophecy? Can the very act of speaking a prediction aloud make it come true? And, if so, does that make you a seer, or just a schmuck?

Dramatizing the eternal dispute between poetry and power, between faith and practicality, between haves and have-nots, Dror Burstein's Muck is a brilliant and subversive modern-dress retelling of the book of Jeremiah: a comedy with apocalyptic stakes by a star of Israeli fiction.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to the rabbis, the time of Jewish prophecy ended long ago; Burstein's richly inventive novel challenges this notion by setting the story of prophet Jeremiah in an Israel that is simultaneously then (the reign of the last kings of Judah) and now (the Babylonians have tanks; the Jerusalemites go into exile via light rail). Jeremiah, a failed poet with a dead sister and a vegan mother, doesn't want to prophesy exile and destruction, especially since the last king is his childhood friend and fellow poet, but what can he do? The place is epically corrupt: children are sold like chickens to be slaughtered (in imagery reminiscent of Nazi gas "showers"), everything runs on bribes, people disappear into prisons, and even the architecture is barbaric and garish. It's hard not to read this as a parable for today's Israel and the struggle over Palestine. Near the end, Jeremiah is thrown into a pit: he emerges covered in the titular muck, "Godless, without angels, without prophecy... the pit remained within him." Burstein (Kin) may not be hopeful, but in this long, tangled, and occasionally obscure novel, he has found a way to speak, as prophets and novelists do, of present, past, and future, what was and what might be. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

WIT'S end By James Geary. (Norton, $23.95.) Geary takes an unusual - , approach to writing about wit. The chapter on verbal repartee is written as a dramatic dialogue. For the neuroscience of wit, he delivers a scientific paper. A quirky approach for a quirky topic, freak kingdom By Timothy Denevi. (PublicAffairs, $28.) Beyond the drugs and gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson was a fierce opponent of corruption and the authoritarian tendencies of political leaders. This is what most motivated his writing, Denevi argues in a new biography of the bombastic writer, the new order By Karen Bender. (Counterpoint, $26.) A finalist for the National Book Award, lauded for her short stories, Bender returns with a collection that reflects America's new reality. One story takes place after a school shooting, another centers on a woman grappling with unemployment, muck By Dror Burstein, translated by Gabriel Levin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Burstein is one of the most experimental and exciting Israeli novelists writing today. His new book is a reworking of the Book of Jeremiah tinged with much surreality - there are talking dogs and cunneiform tattoos. heirs of the founders By H. W. Brands. (Doubleday, $30.) Brands, a two-time Pulitzer finalist, has turned to the generation of American political leaders who arrived in the wake of the founding fathers and dominated the first half of the 19th century. The intertwined lives of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun are examined for all the ways they helped shape the young nation. "One of the odd effects of this exhausting and endless news cycle, for me anyway, is that I am always looking for something else to read. I'm not looking to be distracted so much as absorbed in bold, ambitious books (fiction, typically) filled with big ideas and imaginative characters. You can't get much bigger or bolder than John Irving's a prayer for owen meany, starting with its tiny, eponymous hero - barely 5 feet tall, fully grown - whose high-pitched utterings Irving renders solely in all-caps. 'THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE,' Owen declares, matterof-factly, staking out his position on one of the existential questions at the heart of the book, set in small-town New Hampshire in the 1950s and '60s: Are our lives governed by fate or by chance? T am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice,' the novel's narrator - and Owen's best friend - says in the book's opening sentence. Months after finishing A Prayer for Owen Meany,' I find myself suffering a similar fate." - JONATHAN MAHLER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, ON WHAT HE'S READING.


Library Journal Review

Divided into three parts-"Jehoiakim," "Jehoiachin," and "Zedekiah"-this retelling of the biblical story of Jeremiah starts off with a hilarious interlude between the literary critic Broch and the erstwhile poet student Jeremiah, the prophet who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Mattaniah, the brother of the current King of Judah and among Jeremiah's poetry circle, offers a narrative counterpoint to Jeremiah's plight. The novel is set in a quasimodern ancient Jerusalem about the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. The second section, named for the son of King Jehoiakim, culminates in the first Babylonian invasion. In the third and briefest chapter, Mattaniah, renamed Zedekiah, presides as the latest Hebrew king over the final destruction of Jerusalem. The context of subjugated cultures provides incisive commentary about state power and control, repeatedly expressed in authoritarian name changing. VERDICT Gritty realism intermixes with historical allusion, allowing the work to function on various levels. The transmogrification of ancient events into a modern context creates a gripping world of hyperrealistic abandon; recommended for intrepid readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/18.]-Henry -Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.