Synopses & Reviews
Beginning with a chance encounter with the beautiful Eliza June Watermark and ending, four days and 900 pages later, with the Events of November 17, this is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age ten: a lover, a fighter, a scholar, and a truly spectacular talker. Ejected from three Jewish day-schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity. The Instructions is an absolutely singular work of fiction by an important new talent. Combining the crackling voice of Philip Roth with the encyclopedic mind of David Foster Wallace, Adam Levin has shaped a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy a novel that is muscular and verbose, troubling and empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic, and unforgettable.
"Only four days pass between the opening scene of boys waterboarding one another to the moment when 10-year-old Gurion Maccabee and his army attempt to take down their unfair school system, but in the dense, frenzied pages of Levin's outsized debut, those few days feel like forever. Gurion, who narrates and refers to the text as 'a work of scripture,' sees himself as the hero of a yet-to-be-recognized Jewish holiday that celebrates the birth of 'perfect justice,' and recruits an army of misfits and Torah scholars. But nothing happens quickly, and Levin is as content to tend to the screwy plot as he is to allow Gurion to go on extended digressions about Philip Roth and any number of other topics. Between the hubris it takes to expect readers to digest more than 1,000 pages about a tween who says 'the likelihood that I was seemed to me to be increasing by the second' and the shoving in of e-mails, diagrams, and transcripts of television footage, the idea that this could be a great novel is overshadowed by the fact that this is a great big novel, shaggy and undisciplined, but with moments of brilliance. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"A hysterical, heartfelt journey of self-discovery....A book that moves beyond completely transparent influences to reach its own distinct, new, great height." Foster Kamer, Village Voice
"Evocative of David Foster Wallace...full of death-defying sentences, manic wit, exciting provocations and simple human warmth." Julia Holmes, Rolling Stone
"The Instructions is in fact a vital work of — no getting around it — American Jewish literature because it imagines that the genre is indeed through and asks what can be written in its place." Marissa Brostoff, Tablet magazine
"Levin's mammoth, riotous, Talmudic, impossibly excessive yet brilliant, mesmerizing, warmhearted, and hilarious work of chutzpah takes place over four feverish days but encompasses the whole of Israel's battle for existence and the Jewish quest for home and peace." Booklist
"After The Instructions challenges, charms and betrays you, it might just seduce your soul....The Instructions is disturbing and romantic and, ultimately, heartbreaking, and its questions are not easily parsed, even by Gurion's analytic mind. They are the nagging doubts of our own goodness and faith. But it's worth sticking with this author's debut: This is a wunderkind's master class....An incredible creation of fiction." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"This is a life-consuming novel, one that demands to be read feverishly. When it is over, other fiction feels insufficient, the newspaper seems irrelevant....If the ultimate message of modernism was unremitting pessimism...The Instructions has given the literary genre its long deferred conclusion: Indeed, a day — or four — can serve as a reminder that death looms large for anything living, but there is lot of life to be lived in the interim." New York Observer
Combining the crackling voice of Philip Roth with the encyclopedic mind of David Foster Wallace, Levin has shaped a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy — a novel that is muscular and verbose, troubling and empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic, and unforgettable.
About the Author
Adam Levin's stories have appeared in Tin House, McSweeney's, and Esquire. Winner of the 2003 Tin House/Summer Literary Seminars Fiction Contest and the 2004 Joyce Carol Oates Fiction Prize, Levin holds an MA in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago and an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. His collection of short stories, Hot Pink, will be published by McSweeney's in 2011. He lives in Chicago, where he teaches writing at Columbia College and The School of the Art Institute.