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Schtick
Poet Kevin Coval offers both tragedy and comedy in this stirring exposition on the Jewish American cultural experience.
Schtick is a tale of Jewish assimilation and its discontents: a sweeping exposition on Jewish American culture in all its bawdy, contradictory, inventive glory. Exploring—in his own family and in culture and politics at large—how Jews have shed their minority status in the United States, poet Kevin Coval shows us a people’s transformation out of diaspora, landing on both sides of the color line.
Reviews
  • "Coval does for the Jews what Whitman did for America."
    —MARC MARON, comedian, host of WTF

    "[Coval's] newest work may be his best work... a sensational collection, alternately heartfelt, humorous and provocatively political."—Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

    "[Coval's] newest work may be his best work... a sensational collection, alternately heartfelt, humorous and provocatively political."
    —RICK KOGAN, Chicago Tribune

    "A take-no-prisoners Jewish classic."
    —RABBI BRANT ROSEN, Mondoweiss

    "Coval's frank admissions of contempt are often balanced by tenderness, affection, and complicated analyses of identity. "Schtick" implies routine, but Coval's book is anything but. Instead it's an outpouring of self-assessment, cloaked in a tallith of vivid, streetwise language."
    —TAL ROSENBERG, Chicago Reader

    "Coval gains fluidity and depth with each collection. In his fourth book, this line-crosser and bridge-builder—of suburb to city, white to black to Jewish, literature to hip-hop—wrestles with his Jewish American identity in rambunctious, irreverent, and staccato rants, raps, and laments. Coval veers into memoir in trenchant and rueful prose poems about his youth and family. Gliding between the personal and the communal, the sacred and the profane, the painful and the absurd, Coval muses over the fate of European Jews filtering through Ellis Island, losing names and shedding identities, and the treacheries of assimilation. He offers clever, hilarious, and melancholy odes to Jewish holidays and Jewish comedians, lashing protests against both anti-Semitism and the plight of Palestinians, and such barbed riffs as this snap from 'how jewish boys get irish names': 'cuz america is afraid of what it can’t / pronounce.' Propulsive, provocative, shrewd, sorrowful, tender, and soul-baring, this is a watershed collection for Coval and his readers."
    —DONNA SEAMAN, for the American Library Association's Booklist Magazine

    "Coval leans all the way in with Schtick, exposing the grimy, slippery truths about how we live and love and hate with his characteristic wit, rhythmic cadence and unflinching honesty. Powerful."
    —TRICIA ROSE, author, Hip Hop Wars

    “A poet once observed that ‘poetry is the music of facts.’ Kevin Coval's poetry rings with that music. From the grit and turmoil of everyday life, Coval constructs a new beauty that inspires and transforms."
    —BERNIE SAHLINS, founder, The Second City

    “I dig this book, for many reasons, mainly because it makes me think. Any literature that causes us to use our brains and contemplate our roles within the human condition is a good thing! I love... how it mixes Humpty-Hump in with the likes of American iconism. Also I'm part Jewish (it's a slice of my mutt-ism).”
    —SHOCK G, aka Humpty Hump of Digital Undergound

    “Historical/hysterical... reverent/blasphemous...this book bursts with pride/shame/joy/pain. Coval bravely edits nothing. His dazzling images/ideas fly at you, as if scattershot from some Yiddish theater/circus cannon.”
    —TIM KAZURINSKY, cast member, Saturday Night Live (1981-1984)

    “Kevin's poems are hugely influenced by the fact I performed at his bar mitzvah. Yes, I said the word doody. And yes, now he's brilliant.”
    —JEFF GARLIN, co-star and Executive Producer, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

    Praise for L-vis Lives! and Kevin Coval

    "This book is bold, brave and morally messy – twelve rounds of knock-down, drag-out shadowboxing against a shapeshifter. The dark humor, intellectual fervor, and emotional rigor Coval brings to bear animates these pieces, turns caricatures to characters, implicates us all. It's about time."
    —Adam Mansbach, author, Go the F**k to Sleep

    "A radically candid collection...daring, historically grounded, and socially cathartic poems... Coval’s air-clearing honesty about violent and insidious racism and authenticity and creativity is blazing and liberating."
    —Donna Seaman, for American Library Association's Booklist magazine

    “One of my favorite poets.”
    —Mos Def

    "Kevin Coval is a new, glowing voice in the world of literature."
    —Studs Terkel

    "A prophet…a tour-de-force…he can soothe and scathe, hurt and heal, in the course of a single poem."
    —Providence Journal

    "Coval’s greatest strength is his rhythmic, beautiful prose and his willingness to speak truth to power, no matter what the personal cost."
    —URB

    "A concious Jewish phenomenon…[Coval’s] work speaks to the Jewish relationship to the American color line."
    —Jew School
  • "Coval does for the Jews what Whitman did for America."
    —MARC MARON, comedian, host of WTF

    "[Coval's] newest work may be his best work... a sensational collection, alternately heartfelt, humorous and provocatively political."—Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

    "[Coval's] newest work may be his best work... a sensational collection, alternately heartfelt, humorous and provocatively political."
    —RICK KOGAN, Chicago Tribune

    "A take-no-prisoners Jewish classic."
    —RABBI BRANT ROSEN, Mondoweiss

    "Coval's frank admissions of contempt are often balanced by tenderness, affection, and complicated analyses of identity. "Schtick" implies routine, but Coval's book is anything but. Instead it's an outpouring of self-assessment, cloaked in a tallith of vivid, streetwise language."
    —TAL ROSENBERG, Chicago Reader

    "Coval gains fluidity and depth with each collection. In his fourth book, this line-crosser and bridge-builder—of suburb to city, white to black to Jewish, literature to hip-hop—wrestles with his Jewish American identity in rambunctious, irreverent, and staccato rants, raps, and laments. Coval veers into memoir in trenchant and rueful prose poems about his youth and family. Gliding between the personal and the communal, the sacred and the profane, the painful and the absurd, Coval muses over the fate of European Jews filtering through Ellis Island, losing names and shedding identities, and the treacheries of assimilation. He offers clever, hilarious, and melancholy odes to Jewish holidays and Jewish comedians, lashing protests against both anti-Semitism and the plight of Palestinians, and such barbed riffs as this snap from 'how jewish boys get irish names': 'cuz america is afraid of what it can’t / pronounce.' Propulsive, provocative, shrewd, sorrowful, tender, and soul-baring, this is a watershed collection for Coval and his readers."
    —DONNA SEAMAN, for the American Library Association's Booklist Magazine

    "Coval leans all the way in with Schtick, exposing the grimy, slippery truths about how we live and love and hate with his characteristic wit, rhythmic cadence and unflinching honesty. Powerful."
    —TRICIA ROSE, author, Hip Hop Wars

    “A poet once observed that ‘poetry is the music of facts.’ Kevin Coval's poetry rings with that music. From the grit and turmoil of everyday life, Coval constructs a new beauty that inspires and transforms."
    —BERNIE SAHLINS, founder, The Second City

    “I dig this book, for many reasons, mainly because it makes me think. Any literature that causes us to use our brains and contemplate our roles within the human condition is a good thing! I love... how it mixes Humpty-Hump in with the likes of American iconism. Also I'm part Jewish (it's a slice of my mutt-ism).”
    —SHOCK G, aka Humpty Hump of Digital Undergound

    “Historical/hysterical... reverent/blasphemous...this book bursts with pride/shame/joy/pain. Coval bravely edits nothing. His dazzling images/ideas fly at you, as if scattershot from some Yiddish theater/circus cannon.”
    —TIM KAZURINSKY, cast member, Saturday Night Live (1981-1984)

    “Kevin's poems are hugely influenced by the fact I performed at his bar mitzvah. Yes, I said the word doody. And yes, now he's brilliant.”
    —JEFF GARLIN, co-star and Executive Producer, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

    Praise for L-vis Lives! and Kevin Coval

    "This book is bold, brave and morally messy – twelve rounds of knock-down, drag-out shadowboxing against a shapeshifter. The dark humor, intellectual fervor, and emotional rigor Coval brings to bear animates these pieces, turns caricatures to characters, implicates us all. It's about time."
    —Adam Mansbach, author, Go the F**k to Sleep

    "A radically candid collection...daring, historically grounded, and socially cathartic poems... Coval’s air-clearing honesty about violent and insidious racism and authenticity and creativity is blazing and liberating."
    —Donna Seaman, for American Library Association's Booklist magazine

    “One of my favorite poets.”
    —Mos Def

    "Kevin Coval is a new, glowing voice in the world of literature."
    —Studs Terkel

    "A prophet…a tour-de-force…he can soothe and scathe, hurt and heal, in the course of a single poem."
    —Providence Journal

    "Coval’s greatest strength is his rhythmic, beautiful prose and his willingness to speak truth to power, no matter what the personal cost."
    —URB

    "A concious Jewish phenomenon…[Coval’s] work speaks to the Jewish relationship to the American color line."
    —Jew School

Other books by Kevin Coval

  • A People's History of Chicago

    Named "Best Chicago Poet" by The Chicago Reader, Kevin Coval channels Howard Zinn to celebrate the Windy City's hidden history.
  • This Is Modern Art

    A glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists that asks us to question the true purpose of art.
  • 1989, The Number

    For hip-hop heads 89 was the peak of the Golden Era and the Crack Epidemic.
  • The BreakBeat Poets

    Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, et al.
    A first-of-its-kind anthology of hip-hop poetica written for and by the people.
  • L-vis Lives!

    L-vis Lives! in this poetic novella on the collision of race, art, and appropriation in American culture.