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King of the Jews Arnold Rothsteinby Nick Tosches
Synopses & Reviews
So begins Nick Tosches's sprawling biography of Arnold Rothstein, which, in fact, is so much more: not only an elegy to old New York but an idiosyncratic history of the world as told in Nick Tosches's inimitable style.
Known by many names — A. R., Mr. Big, The Fixer, The Big Bankroll, The Man Uptown, and The Brain — Rothstein seemed more myth than man. He was gambling, and he was money. The inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, he was rumored to be the mastermind of the Black Sox scandal, the fixing of the 1919 World Series. He was Mr. Broadway and had his own booth at Lindy's Restaurant in Manhattan, where he held court.
Now, in King of the Jews, Nick Tosches, "one of the greatest living American writers" (Dallas Observer), examines Rothstein's extraordinary legacy by placing him at the center of nothing less than the history of the entire Western world.
"Readers who make it to the end of this unusual book may already have asked themselves the author's closing questions: 'Why am I writing this, and why are you reading it?' Those cracking the binding in hopes of encountering a new biography of mobster Arnold 'the Brain' Rothstein, rumored to be the fixer behind the 1919 World Series scandal, will do some mental scratching at the lengthy introductory discourses on the etymology of 'dice' and the Torah's variant names for God. Tosches is attempting to use the figure of the Tammany Hall — era gangster as an entry point for an idiosyncratic, wide-ranging history of Western civilization. Rothstein himself really doesn't appear until two-thirds of the way into the book (although earlier chapters about religion, fascism, political correctness and other subjects of interest to the author alternate with excerpts on the criminal from an old Brooklyn newspaper and from surrogate's court proceedings). This despite Tosches's representations — unsupported, alas — that the gangster deserves further study and attention "[b]ecause Arnold Rothstein is a shadow figure beyond good and evil." But by giving short shrift to the details of the endemic corruption plaguing New York City during Rothstein's reign, the author fails to make his case that misconduct by police and elected officials was at least as reprehensible. Publishers Weekly
"[Tosches's] book is sometimes boring, sometimes brilliant, often irritating. Readers looking for a gangster tale will be sorely disappointed — readers who want to know what it's like to live inside Tosches' head will hit the jackpot." Keir Graff, Booklist
"Tosches often stops to talk directly to the reader but avoids simply regurgitating the facts by pointing out inconsistencies in past accounts and separating the truth from the legend....this biographical account is riveting." Library Journal
"More sprawling than the Godfather-style family sagas of the gats-and-begats variety, this book unveils a sweeping panoptic argument for the rightness — the necessity — of vice." San Francisco Chronicle
"There is just one piece of journalism — a profile in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle by one Zoe Beckley, published in 1927 — that shows a glimpse of a living, breathing Rothstein, and Tosches reprints it in full. Everything else is dry, actuarial." New York Times
This is the sprawling biography of Arnold Rothstein, a mythical New Yorker who was the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. Rothstein was also rumored to be the mastermind of the Black Sox scandal, the fixing of the 1919 World Series.
About the Author
Nick Tosches was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1949. He is the author of many books, including Hellfire, a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis; Power on Earth, a biography of Michele Sindona, the infamous Sicilian financier; Cut Numbers, his first novel; Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, shortlisted for the Esquire-Waterstone Nonfiction Award and recipient of the Italian-American Literary Achievement Award for Distinction in Literature; the novel Trinities, a New York Times Notable Book; The Devil and Sonny Liston; The Nick Tosches Reader, an anthology spanning the first thirty years of his career; and his most recent book, the novel In the Hand of Dante. Tosches has written for numerous periodicals, including Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor. His poetry has appeared in Open City, Esquire, Contents®, GQ, Smokes Like a Fish, Long Shot, and other publications. Tosches lives in New York.
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