Cover Image: The Golem of Brooklyn

The Golem of Brooklyn

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Alternatively hilarious and deeply troubling, this modern take on the legend of the Golem is both thought-provoking and thoughtful. In Jewish folklore a Golem is a creature made by a rabbi from mud or clay and brought to life to defend the Jewish people in a time of crisis. Len Bernstein, who is no rabbi but simply an art teacher from Brooklyn, nevertheless manages to create a Golem one night when he is stoned, from clay he has stolen from his school. But the crisis is real and the Golem soon sees what he needs to do. He needs to destroy the enemy, and what follows is a crazy road trip to find the 21st century equivalent of those who have always tried to destroy the Jews. There are so many issues confronted in this outwardly amusing and satirical novel that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Anti-Semitism, of course, and white supremacy, but also generational trauma, racism, prejudice, intolerance, hate, vengeance, secularism and politics. Take your pick. Perhaps the Golem does indeed need to come back. He’d find plenty to do. Timely, relevant, insightful and perceptive, I found the book engaging and entertaining, but also a serious examination of our current society.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book.

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According to Jewish folklore, a golem is a creature crafted out of clay and given life when an aleph is inscribed on its forehead. I first learned about golems from Michael Chabon’s novel about comic-book creators, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; the legend of a protector of the Jewish people may have inspired superheroes like Captain America.

The title of Adam Mansbach’s The Golem of Brooklyn may sound like it’ll be about a hipster golem wandering around Williamsburg or Park Slope, though the novel largely takes place outside the borough. But Brooklyn is where an art teacher named Len Bronstein lackadaisically creates a clay monster, which, rather shockingly, comes to life. At first, the golem speaks only Yiddish (he eventually manages to pick up English by watching reruns of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), so Len enlists an ex-Hasidic bodega clerk named Miri to translate. Once the golem learns that antisemitism is alive and well in modern America (note the tiki torch on the cover, a nod to the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally), he figures he has no choice but to spring into action.

For a book about a nine-foot-tall clay monster who’s pissed off that his creator didn’t bother making him a penis, The Golem of Brooklyn is actually quite a thought-provoking novel about the temptations and price of vengeance.

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Centered around the clever premise of constructing and activating a golem at a time a moment in this country and time where antisemitism is loud and proud, The Golem of Brooklyn packs a punch that goes far beyond the comedy of this novel. It ends up being a musing on what it means to be a Jew in this moment and how to carry a legacy of trauma and grief that can never fully heal. Like any good Jewish work, it gives no answers and instead just opens up more questions. With that, I loved this story. I loved Len and Miri and the Golem and the complicated conversations they navigate through the twist and turns of history, folklore and through the actual road-trip part of the story. What more can I say except for how distinctly Jewish and morally complicated this story felt? I highly recommend.

**Many thanks to the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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This was an irreverent, fast-paced stomp of a novel, and one that speaks to our current geopolitical moment in such bold and fascinating ways. Great satire doesn't always land well, but when it's done correctly, I instantly gravitate toward it. Not being familiar with Jewish history or folklore, I thought that this would be a fine entry point, and just like a minor character encountered here, I might have also guessed prior that the "golem" in question was a character from "The Lord of the Rings." Little did I know that golem references date back to the Bible and Talmud, and they've been embedded in popular culture all the way to current times. The main characters leapt off of the page, starting with Len Bronstein, a disillusioned art teacher who crafts a lopsided and dickless golem from stolen clay at a fancy private school; his best stoner/dealer friend, Waleed; and Miri, a once-devout Hasidic Jew turned bodega employee and out lesbian who's needed for her Yiddish. Nothing could have prepared me for The Golem, a profane, nine-foot-tall, "alive, but not alive," acid-dropping, Larry David-loving, killing machine servant of God. "The Golem is for time of Jewish crisis. Where is crisis?" As it turns out, antisemitism is pretty much everywhere, but specifically, the crisis is at a "Save Our History's Future" white supremacist rally in Kentucky. What better occasion for a disastrous, hijinks-filled road-trip? All of the discourse in that section of the book probably requires expert knowledge of Fox News disinformation, conspiracy rabbit holes, and the like. (I'd gladly forgotten about 4chan, replacement theory, and Jewish space lasers.) The historical passages were somewhat plodding, and I wanted more cohesiveness from the gang's choppy misadventures and abrupt ending. Or maybe I just wanted more zany antics and sage wisdom from The Golem, a blunt, marvel of a character that I won't soon forget.

Much thanks to Random House and NetGalley for ARC access.

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This book is a wild ride, thoroughly delightful and entertaining. It does have a political message though, so beware if that’s an issue for you. The Golum of Brooklyn is at times rather strange, but it is engaging and humorous.

Honestly, the world needs The Golum right now. I will say that it’s helpful to have some knowledge of Jewish history, mysticism, and folklore when reading this book. Without that knowledge, I think you might be lost. Also know that there’s a fair amount of transliterated Yiddish, I think, included. I tried to have Google Translate translate it, but it couldn’t. It kept telling me that it was Russian or Danish, and the offered translations made little sense.. I’m pretty sure it’s Yiddish. It isn’t until later in the book that Miri begins doing some of the translating, but some things are still left to the reader to figure out.

As I said, this book has a political message. It touches on white nationalism, antisemitism, and LGBTQ issues. The book also contains quite a bit of crude language. I didn’t have a problem with any of it, but, again, if you might, give some thought to whether this book is for you. The Golum of Brooklyn isn’t all about the difficult things, it’s also about friendship, and it’s an interesting road-trip story.

Sometimes, the subjects jumped around, but they all seemed to fit in and are woven into the tale. All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read, and one that had me laughing.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank all involved for their generosity, but it had no effect on this review. All opinions in this review reflect my true and honest reactions to reading this book.

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The Golem appears in times of crisis when he is needed to defend the Jewish people. Although the Golem is usually brought into being by a Rabbi, this time he's summoned by Len, an art teacher who has no knowledge of the usual texts. He recruits Miri, a nearby bodega clerk, to help translate Yiddish. As the Golem absorbs English via the TV, he recalls his previous iterations and he sets his sights on the current crisis. Overall, a look at Jewish history as told via the Golem and through the eyes of the two main characters, one who knows very little about Judaism and the other who thought they left it behind. The tone is heavy on the satire, but also focuses on Jewish history and generational trauma.

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The book THE GOLEM OF BROOKLYN is a short comedic novel by Adam Mansbach. It blends Ashkenazi Jewish legend with the chaotic American political climate of 2017 as a stoned art teacher makes a golem out of stolen clay. For those who don't know, a golem is a humanoid creature made of mud or clay, nine or ten feet tall, animated through secret rituals and prayers by a rabbi or other learned man to engage in the martial defense of the Jews at a time of crisis. Through a wacky story involving white nationalists, a gay ex-Hasid, lots of sex and drugs, a witch, and a Bigfoot (besides our golem), THE GOLEM OF BROOKLYN explores themes of faith, humor, healing, and vengeance. Or at least it starts to.

I thought I would love this book, but I ended up feeling disappointed.

I would give it a rating of three stars.

Len is a disaffected art teacher. He's Jewish but grew up "observant only in the sense that he noticed things." Miri is a bodega clerk who has left behind her Sassov Hasidic upbringing to live her truth as a lesbian a few blocks and a world away. After Len (who was very high at the time) makes a golem, he recruits Miri to translate from Yiddish so he can understand (and hopefully control) his creation.

There were lots of interesting, disparate ideas that did not quite come together in this book. For example, epigenetics and trauma. Len has the concept of a sci-fi novel using these ideas. But it isn't developed; nor is it tied in any meaningful way into the notion, explored in this novel, that the golem is the same one creature animated and reanimated over and over again throughout the ages. There has only ever been one golem, and it has an ancestral memory of all the traumatic crisis moments for which it has been called into action throughout the centuries.

Even though the many side stories offer funny, enjoyable diversions from the main plot, these disjointed scenes are barely held together by the overall narrative of the golem's intended mayhem.

Ah, yes, the mayhem. The golem learns English (albeit a guttural, broken, Yiddish-infused English) by watching TV. Curb Your Enthusiasm, to be exact. As soon as he is able, he asks, "Where is the threat?" Miri shows him a video of the 2017 "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville. They learn that a similar rally called the "Save Our History's Past" rally will be held in the coming days in the fictional Wagner, Kentucky. The golem demands to be taken there. Miri and Len would like to give the white nationalists a fright, but they learn that what the golem has planned is to kill as many as he can.

Comically, they think that if they can't talk the golem out of his murderous plans, perhaps Larry David can. They miraculously get David on the phone, and he tells the golem to "kill as many as possible," much to their shock and horror.

So, our heroes are left with a moral conundrum. Kill all the Jew-haters and be safe, but maybe not Jewish anymore, or erase the aleph (deactivating the golem) and keep making their way through an unsafe and antisemitic world.

I am admittedly not the target audience for a novel by the author of GO THE F**K TO SLEEP, so I overlooked the fact that the humor was too cynical for my taste. The story was a wild ride. The golem is animated and cursing early on, which lends a strong sense of momentum. Besides the momentum, there were inside jokes and a deep knowledge of Jewish folklore. There was an interesting weaving together of the past and the present. There were hints at prayer, even. (A character converts to Judaism, and what she says and who she says it to may be the biggest inside joke of the whole book.) These are the book’s strengths. However, the excessive use of profanity and cynicism became tiresome after a while, as did the “Me The Golem, you Dickhead” dialogue. What kept me hanging on was the promise of a big finish. I figured I had come this far; I wanted to see what happened at that rally.

But what happened was a huge, distracting point-of-view shift and . . . no big finish! No satisfying ending at all. Instead, I got an unresolved whimper. Maybe that's as it should be. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for how unresolved and complex tikkun olam is in real life. But as I turned the final page, the disappointment settled in—a feeling of being cheated out of closure. The emotional impact of this incomplete ending was heightened by the events of 10/7, leaving me longing for a more satisfying conclusion. The ending dialogue being at odds with the ending actions only deepened my disappointment.

Ultimately, I felt like Mansbach was Len, and the book was the golem, created out of stolen clay. The anticipation built throughout the story—the anticipation of a grand climax, a resolution that would tie up all loose ends—was utterly wasted. It came to naught but mud, leaving me feeling unsatisfied and let down. I guess we have to solve our own problems in this modern world; we can’t rely on a golem or a book to do it for us. But where’s the fun in that?

Thank you #NetGalley and #RandomHousePublishingGroup - #RandomHouseOneWorld for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. #TheGolemofBrooklyn @NetGalley @RandomHouse

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These two books, both published this past Fall, don’t actually have that much in common—one is dark horror/thriller, the other is humor/satire—but they do both have very memorable Golem characters.

I loved “Wrath Becomes Her” by Aden Polydoros AND “The Golem of Brooklyn” by Adam Mansbach. A Golem is, apparently, a versatile and engaging literary device in grownup fiction (and not just within the many Golem-related picture books I’ve shared here in the past year).

Now I’m just hoping for news about film deals for both of these super cinematic novels.

#golem #thegolemofbrooklyn #wrathbecomesher #historicalfiction #jewishfiction #jewishbooks

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I love a quirky book about a golem, which is a larger subgenre than most people realize! I've actually learned a ton about this mythological/mystical/magical creature of the Jewish culture from a few fiction novels, but this one was just insanely delightful and outright hilarious. And the most hilarious ones are the ones that usually are the most surprisingly moving. It's hard not to love these characters, whether they are real or made of clay.

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Wow! What a timely topic! This was unexpected but absolutely entertaining. I was a bit skeptical at the beginning (Chapter 1) as to where this book was going, but soon I found myself chuckling and enjoying the crazy journey of Len, Miri, and The Golem and being moved morally at the same time.
There is plenty of satirical humor to be had in The Golem of Brooklyn, along with some violence and lots of f-bombs. If this is not your thing, this is not the book for you. The author has a clear moral lesson to tell, but incorporates irreverence to make it entertaining. He did a bang-up job of pointing out the dangers of allowing hate for the "other" to foment and find fertile ground. I found myself reminded of a favorite musical of mine, "The Book of Mormon". I totally recommend this title for anyone who found humor and meaning in this witty but biting show.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review The Golem of Brooklyn. Adam Mansbach, kudos and bravo!!

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This book and The Lost Shtetl are the two best pieces of Jewish fiction I have read in a long time. Incredibly creative concept exploring the golem, a very old legend/archetype, but adapting it to be in conversation with epigenetics and inherited trauma. In addition to laughing out loud frequently while reading, this was a thought-provoking moral quandary with more questions than answers, not dissimilar to the debates of rabbis about the Talmud throughout Jewish history. Thoroughly engaging!

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Thank you Random House and Netgalley for the Reader's Copy!

Now available.

A Golem, a Brooklyn art teacher & an ex-Hasidic lesbian walk into a novel & what do you get? Adam Mansbach's The Golem of Brooklyn aka one of the funnier books I've read this year. It's hard to define what exactly this book is about but for me the highlights were definiteky Mansbach's retelling of Jewish history with a keen eye and biting critique. I almost felt like the book could have kept going just a bit longer as it ended mid argument.

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I really enjoyed this. It was sharp and funny and Jewish and I read the whole thing in one sitting. I loved the bits of history intertwined in the narrative, and I especially enjoyed the Yiddish curses.

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I've never read anything like this book. It's poignant, funny, weird, dark, and at times hard to read because of how relevant it is today, which is why it's so important. I've been recommending it to so many people in my life. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the story, but it will certainly resonate a little more strongly if you are.

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I'm sorry to say that this not just the worst book I've read this year but maybe since the turn of the century. It reads as if some Yeshiva-Bucha wrote it during Talmud Torah because he was bored with memorizing his Haftorah.

The problem with satire/sarcasm is that it's very had to sustain. Just look at every road trip movie or 'Sunset with Bernie' why would anyone find this funny. It reads like what Adam Sandler cut out of one of his bad (?) movies and left on the cutting room floor, and then someone snuck in and glued it all back together.

So why did I give it 2 stars?? Something for the effort.

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This is probably the funniest book I have read in a while, and the author has a pretty sophisticated sense of humor. The story is about a Jewish art teacher named Len who uses his class art clay to build a golem, which is a Jewish mystical creature. Len then befriends Miri, an Orthodox Jewish lesbian who has been shunned by her family. The funniest parts of the story are when The Golem has a Zoom meeting with Larry David, and when the creature puts on a Bigfoot costume.

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"The Golem of Brooklyn" is the story of Len Bronstein's modern day creation of a golem, a mythical Jewish creature, that travels with Len and company to fight antisemitism and provide a few laughs. The best part about this book is the Jewish history. There is so much I never knew, from the golem itself and events in the Holocaust like the mass murder at Babyn Yar. I also like how Mansbach weaves in the theme of the intergenerational trauma of the Jewish people, which seems especially prescient with the most recent news. I thought that the Jewish history was the saving grace of this book. The characters were a little hokey, the dialogue was average, and it all seemed a little far-fetched. "The Golem of Brooklyn" was mostly enjoyable, but outside of the history component, not noteworthy.

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Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for this ARC of The Golem of Brooklyn by Adam Mansbach.

Len Bronstein creates a Golem out of boredom from modelling clay he's been stealing for the hell of it from the high class Brooklyn Heights school at which he teaches art. He then animates it based on internet searches and YouTube video instructions. Needing an interpreter he convinces Miri, an estranged Hasidic Jew, exiled from her community because of her lesbianism. Following some brief adventures with Miri's old community, they find themselves hurtling towards a Charlottesville-like protest by the alt-right in small-town Kentucky where the The Golem is desperate to carry out his ancient role of protecting the Jews at times of crisis.

This is a funny book which contains a lot of really interesting brief histories of elements of Judaism and its history as well as an insight into Jewish culture and traditions. Reading this at a time when there's a renewed war in the middle east, it was particularly poignant to read these humor-tinged (yes, ruefully humorous) sprints through the persecution of the Jews over the centuries. And we're brought right up to the present day with the explosion in openly right wing and Nazi groups in the US.

One thing that made me giggle every time I read it (and I've repeated the habit above) is that the The Golem must have 'The' included in his name so when he's being addressed it's as in, 'Hi, The Golem.'

The interaction between the two main human characters is really enjoyable - one a Jew by birth who's not at all religious, the other a Hasidic Jew by birth who's left partly by choice and partly forced out and who's had to learn how to not be a Hasidic Jew.

The Golem itself is a funny and increasingly complex character who's devastated to find that he was formed without a penis. We learn its history and where it reputedly appeared throughout history and we sympathize with its struggles to fulfil its duties while adjusting to the 21st century.

Really enjoyable.

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Len Bronstein is an art teacher. He has a whole lot of clay he’s filched from his employer’s supply closet, and now he’s stoned. He should make something. He should make a Golem. And friend, that’s just what he does.
Traditionally, The Golem is made by a rabbi to help the Jewish people during difficult times. Len isn’t a rabbi, and he doesn’t expect much from his creation:

“Five minutes passed, and nothing happened. Len reminded himself that he didn’t actually expect anything to…he didn’t believe in any of this shit. He stood, dusted himself off, and went inside to grab a beer…Len deposited his beer in the sink just as The Golem ripped his back door off the hinges and flung it aside.”

My thanks go to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine for the invitation to read and review. This book is for sale now.

Now that The Golem has awakened, he needs to know what his target is. His answer comes to him as he views the news on Len’s television. White Supremacists are railing about a Jewish conspiracy; the Holocaust, they say, was a hoax. The Golem was asleep during the Holocaust, but once it’s explained to him, he’s ready to get busy. But first, he must talk to the rabbi.

Our second main character is a woman named Miriam, Miri to you and me. She works at the bodega down the street, and Len recruits her to be a translator; The Golem, you see, only speaks Yiddish, and Len doesn’t. Miri has been drummed out of the temple because she is a lesbian, but The Golem likes her just fine. Before you know it, Len, Miriam and The Golem are on a road trip beyond all others, first to find a way in to see the Sassov Grand Rebbe, a wealthy and powerful man with a great many gatekeepers, and then to a scheduled White Pride rally down south.

This is, as may be obvious by now, very edgy humor. There’s a great deal of profanity, and whereas most of it is hilarious, at the beginning, the author could have varied his choices more. There are lots of cuss words out there, and not all of them begin with F. But this is a small matter. This novel’s action is interspersed with brief passages of Jewish history that I find very interesting, and they are so brief, and so skillfully woven into the narrative, that you may not notice that you’re learning some things.

My favorite passages involve a bombastic politician, and multiple encounters with cops. (The Golem doesn’t care for them.) As for me, I have read several very funny novels this year, but none made me laugh out loud as often as this one. And in the end--well, you don’t expect me to tell you how this ends, now do you?

Highly recommended to readers that lean left and can tolerate profanity.

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