Commies, Crooks, Gypsies, Spooks & Poets: Thirteen Books of Prague in the Year of the Great Lice Epidemic

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9781883642099: Commies, Crooks, Gypsies, Spooks & Poets: Thirteen Books of Prague in the Year of the Great Lice Epidemic
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Winner of the Carl Sandburg Award for nonfiction.

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Review:

Jan Novak took his family to Prague for a year, and one of the results is this delightful book. Casting an ironic eye on the country in which he grew, Novak remembers the Iron Curtain country of his childhood and observes the farcical contradictions of post-Communist Prague. Witty, astute, erudite, and willing to share his humiliations for the sake of honesty and a good story, Novak touches on Prague lore (the Jewish golem, the clockmaker whose eyes were poked out by a jealous king), Prague history (including the Velvet Revolution martyr who didn't exist), and the Prague of 1992, where an encounter with a pickpocket on Charles Bridge marks the moment they stop being tourists and Prague becomes home. Insightful and very funny, Commies, Crooks, Gypsies, Spooks, & Poets is for anyone who's ever, or never, been to Prague.

From Booklist:

Novak is Czech-born and now a resident of the U.S. With his family--wife, daughter, and son--he spent a year once again living in Prague, beginning in July_ 1992. This was a pivotal time in Czech history--the Iron Curtain falling down as if made of gauze after all, Czechoslovakia embarking on freedom and a market economy, then dividing into separate Czech and Slovak republics. Novak's book is a collection of essays about his and his family's experiences as temporary residents in the splendid Czech capital. Czechs were disoriented during those heady but uncertain times; tourists came not in a trickle but in a flood to enjoy Prague's well-preserved baroqueness. Novak's children learned to speak Czech and had a great time in school and at play, and his writing went well, providing him with a decent living--these things he talks about, and more. This is history told in you-are-there style as well as sharp travel writing. Brad Hooper

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Novak, Jan
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