I Pity the Poor Immigrant

A Novel
By Zachary Lazar (Hardcover Book, 2014)
The stunning new novel by the author of Sway is another "brilliant portrayal of life as a legend" (Margot Livesey).

In 1972, the American gangster Meyer Lansky petitions the Israeli government for citizenship. His request is denied, and he is returned to the U.S. to stand trial. He leaves behind a mistress in Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor named Gila Konig.

In 2009, American journalist Hannah Groff travels to Israel to investigate the killing of an Israeli writer. She soon finds herself inside a web of violence that takes in the American and Israeli Mafias, the Biblical figure of King David, and the modern state of Israel. As she connects the dots between the murdered writer, Lansky, Gila, and her own father, Hannah becomes increasingly obsessed with the dark side of her heritage. Part crime story, part spiritual quest, I Pity the Poor Immigrant is also a novelistic consideration of Jewish identity.
  • Little, Brown and Company
    • Format: Hardcover Book

    • Price: $25.00 US/$28.00 CAN

    • ISBN-13: 9780316254038

    • On Sale Date: 04/08/2014

    • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

    Formats Available: Hardcover Book, Electronic Book, Audiobook

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The stunning new novel by the author of Sway is another "brilliant portrayal of life as a legend" (Margot Livesey).

In 1972, the American gangster Meyer Lansky petitions the Israeli government for citizenship. His request is denied, and he is returned to the U.S. to stand trial. He leaves behind a mistress in Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor named Gila Konig.

In 2009, American journalist Hannah Groff travels to Israel to investigate the killing of an Israeli writer. She soon finds herself inside a web of violence that takes in the American and Israeli Mafias, the Biblical figure of King David, and the modern state of Israel. As she connects the dots between the murdered writer, Lansky, Gila, and her own father, Hannah becomes increasingly obsessed with the dark side of her heritage. Part crime story, part spiritual quest, I Pity the Poor Immigrant is also a novelistic consideration of Jewish identity.

Zachary Lazar is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. He lives in New Orleans, where he is on the creative writing faculty at Tulane University.
  • Praise for I Pity the Poor Immigrant:

    "This is a true portrait of history...as understood by characters whose individual parts have been beautifully brought together by a master craftsman."--Antonya Nelson

  • "Here's a truly exciting novel. The conception is bold, the execution mesmerizing. Zachary Lazar makes the old stories dangerous and urgent again, and reveals the terror beneath our tidy versions of the now."-Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land and The Ask

     

  • Praise for Sway (L,B 2008):
    "A brilliant novel...elegant and intricate....It reads like your parents' nightmare idea of what would happen to you if you fell under the spell of rock 'n' roll."--Charles Taylor, New York Times Book Review

  • "Compelling....A richly imagined, hauntingly vivid novel, wherein everyone falls under the sway of someone or something." (San Francisco Chronicle
    ).

  • "I Pity the Poor Immigrant is work of intricate and precise mystery, a book that is like a bold monument in an empty desert, a thing built of dread, and silences, and dazzling elegance, by a worldly and masterful hand."-Rachel Kushner, author of 2013 National Book Award finalist The Flamethrowers

     

  • "Our investment in these fragile, intensely human figures is profound....Nothing in Sway is writ large, but by carefully mapping the terrain separating the artist from the muse and the genius from the madman, Lazar makes the atmosphere of a decade almost palpable." (Boston Globe
    ).

  • "Sway is really brilliant."--Mark Leyner

  • "I Pity the Poor Immigrant conveys on every page a radical intensity of emotion and intellect. It's epic in scope and yet, in bursts of fine flinty prose, of great economy. Plus it has gangsters in it, and murder, and old lovers, and, above all, a father and daughter whose story turns out to be a heartbreaker."-Joshua Ferris, author of The Unnamed

     

  • Praise for Evening's Empire (L,B 2009):
    "Evening's Empire is a remarkable work....Lazar's story of the murder of his father is spooky, sharply focused, loving, beautiful, and richly redolent of a recent America now vanished into the past."

  • "I Pity the Poor Immigrant is the next iteration of story-making that attempts to tell the truth by means of blending fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and journalism. Like the novels of W. G. Sebald, Zachary Lazar's tale involves a collage of documents, a mix of voices and points of view, to get at the elusive (and inconclusive) nature of human experience. This is a true portrait of history-its circling, complicating elements-as understood by characters whose individual parts have been beautifully brought together by a master craftsman."-Antonya Nelson, author of Bound

  • "Zachary, you've accomplished an amazing feat of filial piety." (Washington Post).

  • "This novel of living myths and the way we manufacture them could not have found a more perfectly paradoxical backdrop: Jerusalem, the spiritual beginning of the West; and Vegas, capital of the other West, where our oldest places are restaged for fun and profit. Zachary Lazar transforms Meyer Lansky from famous mobster to mythic stateless antihero, a figure who might as easily walk out of an airport as out of Sophoclean tragedy."-Salvatore Scibona, author of The End (finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award)

  • "A...tale involving Meyer Lansky, Las Vegas, an investigative reporter and the murder of an Israeli poet... The connections Lazar makes here are complex and artful." -Kirkus Reviews

  • "Lazar juggles the elliptical and fragmented narrative effectively; he is also an excellent stylist, cleverly mimicking multiple forms. The author ambitiously makes a point about history-public and personal-and how it can lead to unexpected byways... An interesting and challenging novel." -Publishers Weekly

  • "Zachary Lazar's brilliant I Pity the Poor Immigrant considers Jewish identity in the provocative and riddling way that Walter Abish's How German Is It asked a similar question about Germans--but Lazar's is ane ven more daring project, for Jews have seldom been willing to look at themselves as perpetrators. Here Lazar deploys once again that signature mixture of panorama, poetry, and intimate observation that he invented in his novel Sway, to evoke the chatoic, hypnotic world of sixties rock and roll. In I Pity the Poor Immigrant, the maze of interlocking voices, bloody crime scenes, and rubble-strewn, blighted cityscapes from the West Bank to the Lower East Side suggests a disturbing question: How Jewish is violence? Lazar never exactly answers: rather, he mesmerizes the reader with a somber, ever moving, kaleidoscopic demonstration: the will to violence, as a strategy as well as a defense, an ambition as well as a compensation, has been with us from the beginning, from King David to Meyer Lansky, from ancient Israel to Las Vegas, New York and Tel Aviv. 

      These are aspects of the poor immigrant experience that respectably fixed later generations prefer to forget: how some of the first to arrive, however impeccable their excuses, looked about them and too the violent opporunity, used the weak and the greedy, to force their way up, sometimes to the top. And yet, as it catches him in its strange, flickering, unstable narrative light, I Pity the Poor Immigrant somehow generates authentic, if bitter, pity even for a gangster like Lansky, stranded in his habit of silence when the State of Israel refuses to take him in."

    --Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule

  • "In between doling out tidbits of Lansky's personal life and early years, Lazar crafts masterful fictional characters who seem as genuine as the real-life mobsters... Blending fact and fiction freely, he insightfully examines the importance of whether the myths we tell ourselves and each other can become their own kind of truth in the end."
    (Booklist).

  • "Lazar is a master of combining disparate stories into one complicated revealing narrative. In this novel, he has again succeeded in taking the reader through various seemingly unconnected lives and demonstrating how we are all immigrants striving for some inexplicable dream." (Library Journal (starred review)).

  • "Hannah Groff's story includes gangster Meyer Lansky-a major figure in the development of Las Vegas-and makes room for the Biblical King David. And in Lazar's deft narrative, the lives of those tough Jewish men are convincingly woven into a rich cast of imagined characters." (Chris Waddington, NOLA.com ).

Formats

Product Details

I Pity the Poor Immigrant
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Price: $25.00 US/$28.00 CAN
  • Pages: 256
  • Physical Dimensions: 5-1/2" x 8-1/4"
  • ISBN-13: 9780316254038
  • On Sale Date: 04/08/2014
I Pity the Poor Immigrant

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I Pity the Poor Immigrant