Friday, June 4, 2010

NEW BOOK! Review: Kosher Pornography?


I really like books with creative characters and/or situations—ones that make me say, “Huh…I would’ve never thought of that”—with a way of life I’d never considered existing. Joshua Braff’s Peep Show is one of those.

It takes place in New York City in the 70s—a seedy, seedy time in the city’s history. And Braff throws us right into the middle of that seediness, into Times Square. A little history lesson: Times Square wasn’t always the bright, Broadway tourist destination it is today. Until Giuliani cleaned it up in the mid-90s, it was home to strip joints, porno theaters, and drug dealers. Peep Show‘s main character is David Arbus, a high school senior living in a conflicted household. His father owns and runs a burlesque theater which, though he tries to keep it “clean” and free of downright pornographic ties, does not please David’s mother, a newly converted Hasidic Jew. Though David’s parents are formally separated, tensions remain strong from a tug-of-war over David’s younger sister, Debra, and her impending way of life—freedom or Hasidism?
The synopsis states:

“As David peeps through the spaces in the screen that divides the men and the women in Hasidic homes, we can’t help but think of his father’s Imperial Theatre, where other men are looking at other women through the peepholes. As entertaining as it is moving, Peep Show looks at the elaborate ensembles, rituals, assumed names, and fierce loyalties of two secret worlds, stripping away the curtains of both.”

I guess I can’t really say it any better, because the subtext of these two completely contrasting worlds is pretty obvious. But boy, is it an entertaining subtext to read.

What I loved about this book was how Braff took the reader into two worlds that are kinda behind closed curtains, yet he seemed to know everything about each. I was instantly jolted into the norms of both worlds, and, because neither is usually perceived as a customary way to live by most readers, you don’t really side with either; you feel the conflict that David must feel as both of his parents follow ways of life that he neither wants nor supports. As I read, I kept pausing to chuckle, “Man, this kid is gonna be messed up someday!” And you want to keep reading just to find out how which direction he goes and how the hell he turns out in the end.
If you can’t handle mention of explicit…erm….sex, then you might be a bit turned off by this one. But I found it so captivating and amusing…and left me wanting to have a drink with the fictional David and hear some crazy anecdotes from his adolescence.
Peep Show was released by Algonquin Books on June 1st.
Review copy provided by the publisher.


softdrink said…

Since I just stayed in Times Square, this one looks fascinating. However, I don't think I can justify another book any time soon!

Amy said…

Ooohhh I also can't justify another book right now, but this looks very interesting. Definitely another add to the wish list 🙂
(PS Jill, it's available on BookMooch for US residents!)

Online Publicist said…

And I, of course, was drawn right into this review by 'Kosher Pornography' in the post title! lol.

I, too, enjoy creative situations for characters to frolic in. I feel like every story has already been told, so an author just needs to find a new way to tell it. And this books sounds like it was successful in doing just that!

Lisa Roe, Online Publicist

Kari said…

Lisa! Haha, I was hoping the title would intrigue someone.