REVIEW OF “GOSH, ZAPINETTE!” by Albert Russo, 768 pages, Cyberwit.net, India, 2016.

REVIEW OF “GOSH, ZAPINETTE!” by Albert Russo, 768 pages, Cyberwit.net, India, 2016.

REVIEW OF “GOSH, ZAPINETTE!” by Albert Russo, 768 pages, Cyberwit.net, India, 2016.

This mammoth volume is billed as “The first ever series of global Jewish humor”. While I understand the marketing idea, I see this literary work as much more than that in both scope and content. In my view and experience this book is “a history-of-the-world-in-progress” told by a quirky but witty protagonist with a Jewish heritage.

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This mammoth volume is billed as “The first ever series of global Jewish humor”. While I understand the marketing idea, I see this literary work as much more than that in both scope and content. In my view and experience this book is “a history-of-the-world-in-progress” told by a quirky but witty protagonist with a Jewish heritage. The humorous approach is a seductive mechanism (at times almost propagandistic and at others times almost embarrassingly true) more so than an end in itself. Seductive because it is endearing enough to entice the reader into following constant and endless paths of thinking perhaps not previously considered. Each of these paths is riddled and spiced with historical, geographical and religious references, anecdotes, allusions to current events, and political commentaries — all weaving a charming and sometimes “wicked” web of associations that are perhaps not always considered to be politically-correct in any one milieu. The author – through the protagonist and “ghost-writer” Zapinette – shoots from the hip in all directions and with aplomb. This book is witty, at times sacrilegious (if not blasphemous), educational and informative, and entertaining. Although almost all of these books have been previously published separately, in this new combined volume the individual books may be experienced and enjoyed as individual stories or chapters (or journal entries) in an ongoing larger sets of adventures. This book may be enjoyed as a personalized travel guide and political history “Nouveau Testament”, as well as a psychological study of two complementary personas and personalities of the author (Zapinette and her Uncle Berky) and that of the “Contemporary Common Man”.

Zapinette is – in my eyes – both a child and an adult. She is the “child in us all” that boldly inquires about and says those things that socially-adjusted and politically-savvy (read “politically-correct”) adults may be afraid to say, and/or which we hope will not be noticed or commented on … be it our appearances, our behavioral idiosyncracies or politics and events in the world. Her Uncle Berky is more cautious, and is often over-run (and over-ruled) by the more carefree (and perhaps more careless) adolescent who knows and says more than she should. And yet more often than not Zapinette is also representative of many values esteemed by representatives of the status quo. She decides herself how to piece together these sometimes competing values within her own illogical but yet logical perspectives on life, humans and world society. Zapinette is always loquacious (except when pouting or suddenly a bit insecure) and oftentimes overbearing and tiring, but she is always true to character: a bit of a true believer cum prophet, and at other times a creative and inquisitive child, and perhaps really just a bystander who is trying to find logical systems of thinking in order to define her own space in the disorderly web of an adult world full of inconsistencies.

The book is written in Albert Russo’s signature descriptive style, and although it is well-written and well-constructed the author allows for a degree of haphazardness, some hurried denouement, the occasional proof-reading laxness, and author-acknowledged repetitions. This lends further to the fun of reading as intentional play with words blend with a refreshing youthful and non-academic style, as well as it keeps the books connected more as stories in this large volume. I suspect that portions of this book are (veiled) autobiographical in personality, perspective and experience, thus giving the reader the added bonus of more insight into a well-known author who has not yet written his formal autobiography. While some readers who are new to the works of Albert Russo may primarily experience the humor in this book, those who are familiar with his African novels and his poetry will recognize both his tongue-in-cheek political commentaries and his occasional passion for ranting about the illogical, the unjust and the plain old “stupidity” he often experiences in our world — both now, and throughout history.

Albert Russo exhibits much courage in publishing this book — both because of its commentary, and also because of his inability not to express his own unadulterated personal truths. I salute and commend his courage and his achievement. I have but one question: when will we get to see “Zapinette – the film”? Anyone in the film industry reading this review?

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2016.