Lip­shitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes

T Coop­er
  • Review
By – May 25, 2012

That’s not the end.” These are words a read­er loathes to encounter. It’s the equiv­a­lent of wak­ing in the mid­dle of surgery and hear­ing the doc­tor say Oops.’ Not only does it remind us we aren’t out of what­ev­er nar­ra­tive woods we’re lost in, but it usu­al­ly sig­nals that the writer is teas­ing us, toy­ing with our trust. The first 316 pages of Lip­shitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes tell the sto­ry of a Russ­ian Jew­ish fam­i­ly com­pelled to immi­grate to Amer­i­ca dur­ing the pogroms in a prose style that is flu­id, ele­gant, occa­sion­al­ly beau­ti­ful and occa­sion­al­ly pre­cious (I nev­er thought I would read a sex scene in a seri­ous nov­el described by the words The two had relations.”) 

Then those four dread­ed words appear, and we are ush­ered from the voice of a third-per­son omni­scient nar­ra­tor into the world of T Coop­er, who hap­pens to be the book’s author. Per­haps I am less adept at mid-stream horse trans­fers than oth­ers, and though the writ­ing in the sec­ond half of the nov­el is ener­getic and often laugh­out- loud hilar­i­ous, it both­ered me to make such a leap. 

The uni­fy­ing ele­ment: an obses­sion with blondes. When they arrive in New York in 1907, Esther and Hersh Lip­shitz lose one of their four chil­dren, Reuven, who stood out in his fam­i­ly for being blonde, but blend­ed into the con­fu­sion that was Ellis Island. They stay in New York longer than they intend­ed to look for him, but even­tu­al­ly move to Texas to be with Esther’s broth­er. Twen­ty years lat­er, Esther is con­vinced Reuven has resur­faced, in the guise of Charles Lind­bergh. Com­pli­ca­tions ensue. 

Mean­while, in the late 90s, ear­ly 00s, T Coop­er is obsessed with a dif­fer­ent blonde icon — Eminem — and makes mon­ey imper­son­at­ing him at bar and bat mitz­vahs. Ms. Coop­er is able to trans­form pain and anger into com­ic gold. The nov­el has many good threads. I just wish some of the seams weren’t showing. 

Jason Myers is a writer whose work has appeared in AGNI, BOOK­FO­RUM, and Tin House.

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