The title of this one is also the cliched opening for a joke, so we expect a funny book? Right. But Grossman is rarely just funny. He’s a Jewish-Israeli author with a good-size following. I’ve only read one of his books prior to this, To the End of the Land, but that was quite a long time ago. I remember it as being pretty good, although I didn’t rave. This book has gotten good reviews and because the Bookgroup List chose it I was game. A Horse Walks Into a Bar is short but it’s not ha-ha funny – it’s actually rather disturbing.
A Horse Walks Into a Bar
by David Grossman
2014/ 208 pages
read by Joe Barrett – 5h1m
rating: 8.5 / contemp. fiction
Dovaleh Greenstein is a stand-up comic putting on his show in a second rate club in the city of Netanya, Israel. A couple days prior to the show Dov calls Avishai Lazar a childhood friend, retired from being a superior court judge, to come and see him, then to tell him later what he sees. The story is told in the 1st person from Lazar’s point of view as a member of the audience.
The audience is made up of military people, some couples and some singles, average people out on the town for fun. Dov’s performance is not fun for most of them. His jokes are mostly old and many are not funny. As he says at one point, He’s “dying” up there. Also in the audience are Lazar and a woman who befriended him many years prior. During his routine Dov insults the audience and himself intermingling a story of how he survived a military stay after boarding school. Lazar follows the story and reveals parts of the it to the audience and reader. The customers are not happy with the show and many of them walk out.
It’s an originally structured book and Grossman is a wonderful writer. This reader was constantly wondering, intrigued, where all this was leading.