Cover image for The Golems of Gotham
The Golems of Gotham
Rosenbaum, Thane.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 367 pages ; 25 cm
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Many years have passed since Oliver Levin -- a bestselling mystery writer and a lifetime sufferer from blocked emotions -- has given any thought to his parents. Not to their double suicide inside a Miami synagogue, not to the horrors they endured in the Nazi concentration camps. He also hasnt thought much about his wife, who vanished inexplicably a decade earlier. Now, after years of uninterrupted literary output, Oliver Levin finds himself blocked as a writer, too.

The only person aware of Oliver's anguish is his teenage daughter, Ariel, who lives with him on Edgar Allan Poe Street in Manhattan, longing for the grandparents she never knew and the mother she never had. An amateur kabbalist and suddenly a klezmer violin virtuoso, Ariel sets out to rescue her father from his demons and denial by summoning the people who she thinks hold the key to Oliver's emotional black hole -- his dead parents, Rose and Lothar.

Inspired by the tale of the Golem of Prague, Ariel resurrects her grandparents as creatures of rescue, but they come back as ghosts with a plan of their own. Moreover, they don't come back alone; their entourage includes six famous writers -- all, including Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosinski, Holocaust survivors and suicide victims.

Trekking through the surreal, millennial landscape, the Golems of Gotham transform Manhattan and take Ariel and Oliver on an achingly symbolic and hilarious journey that confronts the mysteries and the conflicted legacy left to the post-Holocaust world.

Highly original and deeply insightful, The Golems of Gotham is a novel of moral philosophy that explores the relationship between art and atrocity, the artist's romance with madness, and his responsibility to history. Part ghost story, part mystery, it offers lasting commentary on the preservation and reinvention of memory, and the power of the mind to conjure both its own prison and liberation.

On the surface a poignant story about a child's longing to save her father and a mystery writer's quest to decipher the riddle of his own life, The Golems of Gotham is a work of staggering imagination that explores some of the most haunting, unanswered questions of our time.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When mystery writer Oliver Levin suffers writer's block, his 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, uses the kabbalah and forms a golem to summon help from her grandparents, Holocaust survivors who committed suicide when their only son was in college. But Ariel brings back not only Rose and Lothar Levin but six notable writers, all Holocaust survivors who later committed suicide, as ghosts who can be seen only by Ariel, Oliver, and an occasional homeless man. As Ariel draws crowds playing klezmer music on an aged violin outside Zabar's, Oliver feverishly writes a serious (but possibly unpublished) novel, and the golems eliminate tattoos, crew cuts, crowded train cars, striped uniforms, showers, and smoke from New York. But after a few months, the golems--unhappy at seeing their history revised or forgotten--bring Kristallnacht to the Big Apple. (Readers may wince at this violence in New York in the wake of the recent tragedy, but these instigators soon restore order to the city.) With this very accessible novel full of appealing characters, Rosenbaum--himself the child of Holocaust survivors--should help ensure that we never forget. Michele Leber

Publisher's Weekly Review

A half-dozen ghosts of famous literary figures return to New York to help unblock a Jewish writer in Rosenbaum's intriguing but undisciplined second novel (after Second Hand Smoke), which begins with the suicide of a pair of elderly Holocaust survivors, Lothar and Rose Levin. Their deaths prove devastating to their son, Oliver, a successful author who was already struggling with a serious case of writer's block when his wife, Samantha, left him. Oliver's 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, responds to her father's struggles by conjuring up an illustrious group of literary golems who committed suicide in the wake of the Holocaust a group that includes the likes of Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosinski, as well as Oliver's deceased parents. They quickly provide Oliver with the inspiration to write a serious Holocaust novel as they commit various acts of mayhem around the city, and their rehabilitation project coincides with the rise of Ariel, a prodigal klezmer violinist whose talent lands her a gig at a major New York venue. Rosenbaum's far-fetched modern fairy tale is entertaining, despite some sappy moments, but his focus wanders frequently, particularly when he goes off on tangents about the golems as they work their strange magic. Moreover, he never comes close to capturing the essence of the writers, and by the end of the book they are little more than literary clowns. The author's passion for his subject permeates these pages, but it will be tough for this book to earn an audience beyond readers who share Rosenbaum's devotion to keeping the lessons of the Holocaust alive. Agent, Ellen Levin. (Feb. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved