Synopses & Reviews
As far as romance goes, Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn is fairly incurable. Twice married, once divorced, once widowed--all by the tender age of twelve-- he finally flees his small village and his pious, vengeful father. A lovelorn candide, young Dr. Sammelsohn wanders optimistically through history--pursued by the amorous ghost of his dead wife.
Arriving in Vienna in 1890, a chance encounter with Sigmund Freud leads our hero into the arms of Emma Eckstein, one of Freud's most famous patients. Later he romances the beautiful and wealthy Loë Bernfeld, who carries him into the world of Esperanto and the universal language movement. Finally, Dr. Sammelsohn finds himself in the Warsaw ghetto in 1940, only to become a pawn in a battle over the path to heaven.
A Curable Romantic is a novel of personal and historical exile that could spring only from the literary imagination of a virtuoso. Often fantastical yet always grounded in tradition and history, it is that rare literary feat --a truly incomparable tale, ingenuously told, peopled with characters who live on in the memory.
"Skibell's fat, cheeky, and sweeping latest begins in early 1895 Austria when his endearing protagonist, young Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, comes face-to-face with Sigmund Freud in a room full of mirrors that create an ironic 'unending trail of Freuds.' Eventually, the story follows Sammelsohn through the shadow of Freud, the arms of several lovers, and eventually to the Warsaw ghetto, providing a grand portrait of Eastern Europe, but it is the initial setup of Sammelsohn as a naiÃŒÂˆve crucible for Freud's vicarious obsessions that makes Skibell (A Blessing on the Moon) more of a social satirist than a straightforward portraitist. In the figure of Sammelsohn, we see the timid makings of the modern psychoanalytic man: the young doctor is, at heart, a lonely romantic led into a bungle of overanalysis in a world 'glittering with the usual accoutrements of late-century masquerade,' sporting the foolish instrumentation of 'monocles, lorgnettes, pince-nez, stickpins, watchfobs' and an 'assortment of impractical hats.' Skibell's delicious juxtaposition of Sammelsohn against the cocainesnorting Freud, and Sammelsohn's infatuation with the 'cruel, vindictive, haughty, caustic, dismissive, even murderous' character of Emma Eckstein, one of Freud's patients, make for a magnetic collection of personalities. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Skibell's fat cheeky and sweeping latest begins in early 1895 Austria when his endearing protagonist young Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn comes face to face with Sigmund Freud in a room full of mirrors that create an ironic "unending trail of Freuds." Eventually the story follows Sammelsohn through the shadow of Freud the arms of several lovers and eventually to the Warsaw ghetto providing a grand portrait of Eastern Europe but it is the initial setup of Sammelsohn as a nai¨ve crucible for Freud's vicarious obsessions that makes Skibell (A Blessing on the Moon) more of a social satirist than a straightforward portraitist. In the figure of Sammelsohn we see the timid makings of the modern psychoanalytic man: the young doctor is at heart a lonely romantic led into a bungle of overanalysis in a world "glittering with the usual accoutrements of late century masquerade" sporting the foolish instrumentation of "monocles lorgnettes pince nez stickpins watchfobs" and an "assortment of impractical hats." Skibell's delicious juxtaposition of Sammelsohn against the cocainesnorting Freud and Sammelsohn's infatuation with the "cruel vindictive haughty caustic dismissive even murderous" character of Emma Eckstein one of Freud's patients make for a magnetic collection of personalities. (Sept.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"While the characters struggle in their humanness, God weeps overhead and angels make deals with demons ... This is a funny, poignant, thoughtful, and ultimately satisfying work by an author who stands with the best of them."
--Bruce Coburn, singer/songwriter, guitarist, Slice o Life
"Brilliant . . . Astonishingly original . . .What life on earth might actually mean."
--Dara Horn, author of The World to Come
"I loved the novel for its realism, for its romantic tension, and for its sentence by sentence brilliance."
--Max Apple, author of Free Agents and The Oranging of America and Other Stories
"Joseph Skibell's comic intelligence embraces fifty years of European Jewish history in a brilliant tour de force that is hilarious, insightful, and inventive."
--Rodger Kamenetz, author of Burnt Books and The Jew in the Lotus
"An irresistible romp about a lovelorn 19th-Century doctor who falls in with Sigmund Freud--and some dangerously attractive women." --O Magazine
"A Curable Romantic
has no end of fun with its themes, notably the limits and usefulness of language . . . At the same time, it's a tale of great compassion and reverence--a remarkable, deeply felt examination of man's relationship to an ever-changing world."
--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"A high-energy, wild performance . . . The postmodern Jewish novel as mash-up of genres: Yiddish folktale, sentimental education, Freudian case history, erotic confession, utopian parable, all wrapped up in an 'alternative history' of Jewish emancipation."
--The New Republic
Set mostly in early 20th-century Vienna, this novel chronicles the life, times, and loves of Dr. Jakov Sammelsohn--from his early expulsion from his Hasidic family (for his crime of reading secular books) when he was 12, into a friendship with Sigmund Freud (circa 1894), into the early Esperanto movement (1895-1907), and finally through World War I and into the Warsaw ghetto.
I fell in love with Emma Eckstein the moment I saw her from the fourth gallery of the Carl Theater, and this was also the night I met Sigmund Freud." So goes the life, times, and loves of Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, a fairly incurable romantic venturing optimistically through modern history. In this inventive and satiric tour de force, Joseph Skibell, award-winning author of A Blessing on the Moon, presents a picaresque novel of exile that could spring only from the imagination of a virtuoso.
About the Author
Joseph Skibell is the author of two previous novels, A Blessing on the Moon and The English Disease. He has received a Halls Fiction Fellowship, a Michener Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other awards. He teaches at Emory University and is the director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.