A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman

Posted April 10, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 2 Comments

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David GrossmanTitle: A Horse Walks into a Bar (Goodreads)
Author: David Grossman
Translator: Jessica Cohen
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2016
Pages: 208
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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When the Man Booker International longlist was announced for the year, I logged into my library and searched to see which books I could reserve. Sadly they only had five of the longlist, which included one I had already read, War and Turpentine. David Grossman’s A Horse Walks into a Bar was one of the books available. Having now read this novel, I do not think any book has left me as emotionally perplexed as Horse Walks into a Bar.

The novel is set in a small Israeli town comedy club where the audience gather for a night of laughter. Instead they witness a comedian coming apart on stage. This is such an emotionally charged novel and one that must have been difficult to write. I went into the book interested in the techniques used to write a stand up show into a novel and I wanted to see how Grossman would handle this meltdown. Humour is so subjective and I felt myself groaning at the attempts made by this comedian. Obviously this is not the type of comedian I would go see perform.

I do wish I knew more about Israeli culture than I do, because I think there was so much I could have gotten from the novel and I feel like some of it just went over my head. There was so much to be gained and having never read David Grossman before I do not think this was the right starting point. The breakdown was such a tough piece of writing to pull off and I often felt like it was not being handled correctly. Having said that, writing a novel around one stand-up performance would have given the novel many restrictions.

This was such a difficult book to read, mainly because I felt so emotionally drained from reading it. I could not read more than twenty or thirty pages before I need a break from the experience. I think David Grossman is a brilliant writer even if this is not a book for me. I am curious to read more Grossman, I have often heard great things but never sure where to start. While I did not enjoy the experience of reading A Horse Walks into a Bar, I cannot stop thinking about it. This is the type of novel that would make for a great stage performance.

2 responses to “A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman

  1. George Petroff

    Good review. I found the book an original, clever, interesting read. Some good jokes. For a fair bit of the story I was getting as uninterested as the majority of the audience in Doveleh’s story. He told his story in such a long winded way, BUT on reflection, this book is probably worth a reread.

    I was a keen booktube viewer for about six months but now hardly ever watch as I prefer reading. I also do not like reviewers making negative, unhelpful comments on books. I found booktubers focus mostly on current authors and new releases. I am slowly trying to read a backlog of great authors that I have discovered whilst trying to get through the ‘1001 books you must read before you die’ list, which is an excellent source for discovering great authors. I certainly try to keep up to date but am a long way from satisfying my need to read all the great books of the 1800 – 2000 period! Agree with your comments about George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo. It’s good but I too preferred his Tenth of December short stories book.

    • I think this book probably does need to be reread, and who knows I might do that at some point. I am a recovering Booktuber and I think negative comments are useful but only if they are constructive and used to illustrate why they didn’t enjoy the book, rather than bash the author. I am not interested in overhyped books often talked about on Booktube (although I did read Lincoln in the Bardo).

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