Ask a Bookseller: 'The Netanyahus'

Hal Hlavinka of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., says he's been telling everyone about a new novel by Joshua Cohen, out Tuesday: "The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family."

The cover of a book
"The Netanyahus" by Joshua Cohen
Courtesy Fitzcarraldo Editions

In 1959, at a small New York college, history professor Ruben Blum reluctantly hosts visiting lecturer Benzion Netanyahu. He arrives with his entire family, including a young Benjamin Netanyahu, who until recently was prime minister of Israel. Rather than reveal any of the surprises in the plot, Hlavinka simply says that "many shenanigans ensue."

The story is modeled from one that scholar Harold Bloom told the author, and was expanded through the powers of fiction. Part campus novel, part lecture, full farce, the story is also deeply engaged with the history of Judaism and midcentury politics.

Hlavinka called Cohen's writing "complicated and interesting," adding that this novel, which weighs in near 250 pages in paperback, is an excellent entry point into Cohen's larger body of work.

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