“My wife is right: I’m not as Jewish as I advertise,” writes Yuvi Zalkow, the author and subject of the new book A Brilliant Novel in the Works. It’s a strange statement coming from someone who, in the first pages of the book, spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince his wife to make him a BLT sandwich…only, without the bacon part.
Yuvi–the character in the book–is a thirtysomething author who is trying to write a novel. His non-Jewish wife Julia, whom he describes as a “shikseh goddess,” is supportive of him, both financially and emotionally (she’s even picked up some of the Yiddish that he uses incessantly).
As Yuvi struggles to form his novel, he reaches into his own past and he writes fictional stories (some horror stories, some fantasies) about his friends and family-in-law. Brilliant Novel reads like a memoir, but with enough unexpected turns, clever lines, and near-constant hilarity to convince you of its utter infeasibility.
Yuvi is a proud inheritor to the tradition of Woody Allen: A neurotic, wisecracking Jew with not very much of a handle on his authentic cultural tradition, but who’s incredibly effective at using Yiddish slang. And this cultural Judaism is somewhat contagious: Yuvi endears himself to Julia’s brother–a blond-haired, blue-eyed lovable schlub that Yuvi has affectionately nicknamed “Schmendrick.” Though Yuvi Zalkow the character will drive you crazy, Yuvi Zalkow the author will charm you entirely.