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The Education of Hyman Kaplan

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Leo Rosten wrote his first tale of Hyman Kaplan when he was 24 and it was published to great applause by the New Yorker. Over the next two years the magazine ran all 15 of the original stories that were eventually published in 1937 as The Education of Hyman Kaplan.


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Leo Rosten wrote his first tale of Hyman Kaplan when he was 24 and it was published to great applause by the New Yorker. Over the next two years the magazine ran all 15 of the original stories that were eventually published in 1937 as The Education of Hyman Kaplan.

30 review for The Education of Hyman Kaplan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Over at the Jewish book club here on Goodreads, the first theme of the year is Jewish humor. After the year we just had, I was telling my parents that we need more humor in our lives. Jewish comedians have provided me with many laughs over the years, from the Marx Brothers to Mel Brooks to Jerry Seinfeld, and all of the brilliant minds in between. I actually nominated Seinfeld’s book for this group read because he’s Jerry Seinfeld, enough said. The winning book ended up being a classic published Over at the Jewish book club here on Goodreads, the first theme of the year is Jewish humor. After the year we just had, I was telling my parents that we need more humor in our lives. Jewish comedians have provided me with many laughs over the years, from the Marx Brothers to Mel Brooks to Jerry Seinfeld, and all of the brilliant minds in between. I actually nominated Seinfeld’s book for this group read because he’s Jerry Seinfeld, enough said. The winning book ended up being a classic published eight four years ago by Leo Rosten, the author of The Joys of Yiddish. While not necessarily the type of laughs I had been seeking, I knew that with any classic Jewish humor, I would gain enough laugh out loud moments to last me awhile. Leo Rosten needs little introduction. He authored one of the most famous Jewish humor books of all time, The Joys of Yiddish. What I did not know was that he was also a staff writer for the New Yorker during an era when Jews faced discrimination in finding jobs, even in New York. Over the course of a few years in the interwar 1930s, Rosten penned a column that featured new immigrant Hymen Kaplan. Kaplan was a brilliant man, it appeared he was educated in the fine arts or perhaps even the law in Poland; however, upon arriving in the United States, Mr Kaplan could not pronounce even the basic English sounds. He decides to enroll in the 1930s version of an ESL class for adults under the tutelage of one Mr Parkhill. What ensues throughout these columns turned book is a battle of wits, with Parkhill asserting his authority as the knowledgeable teacher against Kaplan’s lack of mastering any English sounds. In Parkhill’s mind, Mr Kaplan is last in this class although it is apparent that he possesses the sharpest mind in the class. He might not be able to speak as clearly as his rival Miss Bernick, but it is evident early on that Mr Kaplan is one of a kind. Mr Kaplan signs his composition book in red, blue, and green crayon with the signature H*y*m*e*n K*a*p*l*a*n. He gives much thought to every assignment whether it’s spelling and vocabulary, composition, or speaking, always being the first to volunteer his opinions and corrections to the rest of the class. The issue he has despite living life with his original flare is that Mr Kaplan has yet to grasp the nuances of the English language. He pronounces it as though it was transliterated in his native Poland. Idioms are beyond his comprehension, and because Poland has a different alphabet and sounds than does England, he also has trouble differentiating between sounds such as e and a or k and s. Some of the women in the class are timid yet they catch on quicker than Mr Kaplan does, yet perhaps this was just a matter of upbringing. When Mr Parkhill introduces Shakespeare to the class, only Mr Kaplan appears to have learned about the Bard in his native country and offers an in depth critique of the passage discussed in class, albeit in his broken English tongue. It is here that Mr Parkhill begins to grasp the brilliance of Hymen Kaplan, sadly it might have been a little too late for advancement. Rosten penned his ideas during the 1930s. At the time, the United States was closed to much immigration and newly arrived people from foreign lands were looked down upon by citizens. Today the United States is on the verge of a plurality- no dominant ethnic group, with Hispanics being the closest to a majority. In the 1930s, the majority group were Caucasians, and they believed themselves to be superior to all other Americans. I am seeing this book from a 21st century lens. A lot of the jokes are dated. I am a trained second language teacher, a Jew of Ashkenazic descent who understands Mr Kaplan’s nuances, and know that immigrants from other parts of the world are going to have an accent. Some people never lose their accent even after living the majority of their lives in the United States. Mr Parkhill failed to grasp this basic point, and it made me stop to ponder what his views about immigration and the life station of his students was outside of class. Rosten paints a picture of Parkhill as an archetypal WASP male and Kaplan the Eastern European Jewish immigrant. Theirs was a battle of wits, and, it was apparent to me, that Parkhill never stopped to empathize with his students. These sketches might have been considered funny in the 1930s; today not so much as times and opinions have changed. Leo Rosten provided his readers with classic tomes including the stories of Hymen Kaplan. Mr Kaplan had a brilliant mind and did provide me with a few unintentional jokes including his pronunciation of refrigerator and subway as well as thinking that the Harold Tribune was a masculine paper. I suppose that this was considered self-deprecating humor to Jews in the 1930s as they struggled to advance in society. In terms of pure humor, I am still craving a funny movie starring Mel Brooks or Woody Allen. While completely dated, they are sure to provide me with nonstop laughs. As for Hymen Kaplan, suffice to say with a mind like his he had to have advanced in society eventually, even if his trials and tribulations are not considered purely humorous from a 21st century perspective. 3.75 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stacey B

    In finishing this book today, I ended up with a smile on my face that I was hoping would happen. Written in 1937,"The Education of Hyman Kaplan" is a book full of humor, and personalities. The synopsis on the back cover is absolutely accurate. I adore the heart of Hyman Kaplan, a forty-ish jolly good natured man who arrives in the USA from Poland enrolling in a Night Prep School for Adults to learn the English language. His teacher Mr. Parkhill is quite the serious type, smiling only once that I s In finishing this book today, I ended up with a smile on my face that I was hoping would happen. Written in 1937,"The Education of Hyman Kaplan" is a book full of humor, and personalities. The synopsis on the back cover is absolutely accurate. I adore the heart of Hyman Kaplan, a forty-ish jolly good natured man who arrives in the USA from Poland enrolling in a Night Prep School for Adults to learn the English language. His teacher Mr. Parkhill is quite the serious type, smiling only once that I saw. Early on, he isn't sure what to make of Kaplan; though he can tell Kaplan is going to be a tough case, but makes a judgement call that Kaplan is ignorant and will never pass this course. Parkhill gets shaken and irritated every time Kaplan speaks. Adult students spoke with the dialect of Yiddish and because of the colloquy of dialogue, it made understanding a little difficult. The author totally saves us by translating the meaning as well as using phonetics....... Mr. Parkhill: Who can tell us the meaning of "vast"? Mr. Kaplan: (stands up proud to answer) "Vast" Its commink fromm diraction. Ve have four diractions : de nauth de sot, de heast, and de vast. Mr Parkhill: Er.. you mean "west" Mr. Kaplan? Mr. Kaplan: So is- vast -is vat you eskink? (asking) Mr. Parkhill: Yes, Mr Parkhill says faintly. Mr. Kaplan: Aha! Hau Cay. Ven Im buyyink a suit clothes, Im gattink d' cawt, de pents and d'vest. ( Ok, when Im buying a suit clothes, Im getting the coat, the pants and the vest) /// Though it's evident Kaplan works hard, Parkhill gives Kaplan a harder time than all the others. Being proud - I don't think he recognized the depth of his effect on others until later. Aware of being constantly criticized, in receiving more than his fair share of verbal punches, Kaplan waits to to pounce on somebody to make an error, yet when it happens, he is shot down every time. .His need for a compliment which could validate him is important, but that also never happens. What is it with this Kaplan? JSTOR joked with the title calling it The Man Who Wouldn't Go Away; reason being that others would have walked out due to the negative attitude towards him. Kaplan's class is made up with different nationalities; mostly jewish immigrants but it is Kaplan who stands out in this class. Its obvious from day one he would get on the nerves of everyone. Tablet Magazine, 2008 goes into depth regarding questioning the relationship between Parkhill and Kaplan as to whether antisemitism is part of Parkhill's nature. If so, he has the wrong job. As time goes on, the level of confidence of the class increases. Parkhill introduces the concept of "masculine-feminine", using an example that newspapers are considered masculine. This threw Kaplan for a loop-he repeats the word out loud "noose pepper" ? On the board Parkhill writes "Newspaper" showing "he- is masculine-she -is feminine." He asks Kaplan knowing he will answer incorrectly: "What newspapers have a masculine name besides The New York Times and The New York Post? Kaplan's response is Hay Cay, I know anser "The Harold Tribune." / Go......Kaplan!! The final exam is give which is a story to be written on aspirations of the student. This would be the culmination of the book as well as proving unspoken opinions. Looking through the exam papers, Parkhill notices a a blank page. Turning it over he finds Kaplan's name with a short notation that goes something like this: If "I" am in hall and make knok, knok knok; and "I" hear insite (inside the room) somebody hollers "Whose there"? ---"I" anser strong It's Kaplan !! ps. I dont care if I dont pass, I love the class. /// Mr. Parkhill's judgement call - "incorrect"!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    Fortunately, this book is too old to have an audio edition. Wall-to-wall word play, it's written to be read. Hyman Kaplan is a Yiddish-speaking immigrant in a class full of immigrants learning to speak and understand English. And every word Hyman speaks is a... is a.... Well, I just spent a laugh-filled stint on Wikipedia, reading about malapropisms and mondegreens, but still not sure which ones Hyman utters. Whatever, their proliferation has his teacher, Mr. Parkhill (Pockheel, according to Hyma Fortunately, this book is too old to have an audio edition. Wall-to-wall word play, it's written to be read. Hyman Kaplan is a Yiddish-speaking immigrant in a class full of immigrants learning to speak and understand English. And every word Hyman speaks is a... is a.... Well, I just spent a laugh-filled stint on Wikipedia, reading about malapropisms and mondegreens, but still not sure which ones Hyman utters. Whatever, their proliferation has his teacher, Mr. Parkhill (Pockheel, according to Hyman) climbing the wall. "V" and "w;" short "a" and "e;" speech patterns from another language. On top of it all, a Brooklyn accent. "Teacher" becomes "titcher;" "another meaning" becomes "annodder minink," and so forth. We get "Prazident Abram Lincohen" and "mine gootness" and "de naut, de sot, de heat, and de vast." "Opprassed voikers of de voild..." Riddles must be deciphered: what could possibly be the meaning of "A room is goink arond*?" (See answer at bottom.) Opening this book from 1937, you may ask, as I did, just what is this? Is it funny? And just who is the butt of these jokes? That's because we're in 2021, not the 1930s; we don't have the mindset or the experiences -- all necessary for getting jokes. Is it nasty humor making fun of immigrants? Even antisemitic? We don't think those things about Lionel, the Shakespeare of Tourette's, from Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn; that, we're close enough to get. The author was a Jew, writing at this point under a pen name, Leonard Q. Ross, whose Hyman Kaplan stories, prior to collection in this book, were published in The New Yorker, no less. I think the author is serving up reverse mondegreens: the intentional production, in speech or writing, of words or phrases that seem to be gibberish but disguise meaning (Wikipedia). And Hymanizing, make that, humanizing his would-be betters. Good old Human Kaplan: the way my fingers kept wanting to type it! *"A rumor's going around." Addendum: If you could use some laughs, look up "Malapropisms" on Wikipedia, especially the "real-life examples" at the bottom.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Okay, Goodreads, now I've finished it. This book is light and funny. Hyman Kaplan is an immigrant living in the United States and taking a beginners English class at a night school for adults. The book focuses on Kaplan's strange use of the English language: his odd spelling, bizarre pronunciation, and his logical (but incorrect) understanding of word meanings. Kaplan's teacher, Mr. Parkhill, does his best to be patient with Kaplan and to correct his errors, but Kaplan is incorrigible. The other Okay, Goodreads, now I've finished it. This book is light and funny. Hyman Kaplan is an immigrant living in the United States and taking a beginners English class at a night school for adults. The book focuses on Kaplan's strange use of the English language: his odd spelling, bizarre pronunciation, and his logical (but incorrect) understanding of word meanings. Kaplan's teacher, Mr. Parkhill, does his best to be patient with Kaplan and to correct his errors, but Kaplan is incorrigible. The other students have differing relationships with Kaplan, from antagonistic to respectful. The structure of the book consists of separate stories, each with its own title, regarding a different aspect of Kaplan's education or a different level of understanding achieved by Parkhill concerning his most difficult yet most entertaining student. I would love to use parts of this book as samples for my writing classes. I work with many second language students, and I've seen many of the errors and much of the confusion in them that Ross shows in Kaplan. And I've felt the same frustration that Mr. Parkhill feels with seeing the same or the same type of errors over and over. All in all, this is a good little book. I recommend it as something entertaining and light to read between heavier books. If you're a second language speaker or an instructor of second language students, you will definitely get a kick out of this. It is pre-World War II, though, so it's dated but still enjoyable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    For Jews who love word play, this is an absolute hoot! Non-Jews who love word play might also like it, but as it takes place in an English class for a bunch of Jewish immigrants, mit Yiddisheh eksents yet, it'll fill Jews with nostalgia, even Jews who don't speak Yiddish. After all, it's a comedy about bubby and zaidy! Hyman Kaplan's mistakes are guaranteed to give you the giggles. They certainly did for me! For Jews who love word play, this is an absolute hoot! Non-Jews who love word play might also like it, but as it takes place in an English class for a bunch of Jewish immigrants, mit Yiddisheh eksents yet, it'll fill Jews with nostalgia, even Jews who don't speak Yiddish. After all, it's a comedy about bubby and zaidy! Hyman Kaplan's mistakes are guaranteed to give you the giggles. They certainly did for me!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    It was over 30 years ago when I originally read this short comic novel, and I remember thinking at the time it was hilarious. I have just re-read it after a copy was loaned to me. I am harder to please these days, but I still think it’s very funny. It dates from 1937, and is set amongst a class of newly arrived (mostly Jewish) immigrants to NYC, who are learning basic English. The conscientious but rather conventional teacher, Mr Parkhill, finds himself faced with the genial but extraordinary ch It was over 30 years ago when I originally read this short comic novel, and I remember thinking at the time it was hilarious. I have just re-read it after a copy was loaned to me. I am harder to please these days, but I still think it’s very funny. It dates from 1937, and is set amongst a class of newly arrived (mostly Jewish) immigrants to NYC, who are learning basic English. The conscientious but rather conventional teacher, Mr Parkhill, finds himself faced with the genial but extraordinary character of Hyman Kaplan, a man who writes each letter of his name with a different coloured crayon; for whom every recitation in class is the opportunity for an extravagant public performance; and who applies a unique logic to learning the English language. This includes conjugating the verb “to fail” as “Fail, Failed, Bankropt” and offering the word “skinny” as the opposite of “rich”. Anyone who’s a GR member probably enjoys language and wordplay, and the wordplay here is very clever and very funny. It’s also next to impossible not to feel affection for the cast of characters, who include the struggling Mrs Moskowitz, the shy Miss Mitnick (the best student in the class and Kaplan’s great rival in classroom discussions), and of course the wonderful Hyman Kaplan himself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ema

    The funniest book I have ever read so far! This book can cure depression one page at a time. If you didn't know that the plural of 'bone' is 'skeleton' or that the forms of the verb 'to die' are 'die - dead - funeral' read this book 😂😂😂 The funniest book I have ever read so far! This book can cure depression one page at a time. If you didn't know that the plural of 'bone' is 'skeleton' or that the forms of the verb 'to die' are 'die - dead - funeral' read this book 😂😂😂

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anna Szabo

    Essential reading for an ESL teacher. It did become a little redundant after about page 70. But otherwise, an amusing read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    This is another book I had begun to think I had dreamed. I first read it in the early 7os, when at age 10 I was allowed access to the adult stacks in the library. At that point in my small rural Midwestern life, I had never seen a "real live" Jewish person and New York City was only in the movies and on TV. I was attracted by the stars in the title, I guess, and I remember reading it and laughing over what I understood of it. I do remember a story that is missing from the edition I just re-read, This is another book I had begun to think I had dreamed. I first read it in the early 7os, when at age 10 I was allowed access to the adult stacks in the library. At that point in my small rural Midwestern life, I had never seen a "real live" Jewish person and New York City was only in the movies and on TV. I was attracted by the stars in the title, I guess, and I remember reading it and laughing over what I understood of it. I do remember a story that is missing from the edition I just re-read, titled "The Unforgivable Feh!" Apparently "Feh!" is a scornful sound made to imply that something is not very good, unimpressive etc. At this reading, the many students remind me of the ESL students I have tried to teach over the years. There's the guy who's sure his fractured grammar is right--to the point of telling me "it's in my other English book at home!" The kid who's too shy to make a mistake out loud, so they never talk in class. The woman who thinks you're going to tap her on the head with your magic wand and make her speak perfect English in ten sessions or less--usually they last for far less. The man who believes the "English without effort" ads, and can't understand it doesn't work that way in real life. I admit I was a bit surprised at the "first year" class with its rather advanced syllabus, but then a) this was set in the 30s or so, with much greater emphasis on actual grammar and study and b) the people did after all live in NYC. Talk about an immersion course! The only thing I didn't like is the teacher/narrator seeing his students as "childlike/childish" and yet they are all adults, most older than himself, and working at jobs. But then I remembered the attitudes of many ESL teachers I have known who transplanted themselves from the UK/US/Australia to Spain (usually temporarily) and held my peace.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jami

    I loved this book! Mr. Kaplan made me laugh; at some times I felt sorry for him and others I cheered him on! I also did feel some empathy to Mr. Parkhill as well! What an interesting story about Mr. Kaplan and his class at the Night Preparatory School for Adults. As I was reading it, I could hear his accent and his pronounciation - it certainly makes you stop and think how difficult (and illogical) the English language can be, particularly for non-native speakers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    A little outdated, having first been published in 1937, but cute nonetheless. I suppose the humor would have been more immediate at the time it was written. It does show many of the reasons why it's difficult for foreigners to learn English! There are so many ways the language can trip you up if you didn't grow up with it. A little outdated, having first been published in 1937, but cute nonetheless. I suppose the humor would have been more immediate at the time it was written. It does show many of the reasons why it's difficult for foreigners to learn English! There are so many ways the language can trip you up if you didn't grow up with it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    A must for every ESL/EFL teacher (or any foreign language teacher for that matter). I must admit I enjoyed the ingenious Czech translation more than the English original. If you like this book watch Mind your language series (or vice versa)!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Lipman

    Charming, observant and at times very funny account of (mostly Jewish) immigrants into NY. The use of spelling to capture immigrant accents and lexicon is terrific. But monothematic, and now a tad dated.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Cute fun read. Rather dated since it was first published in 1937, but it was a nice view of my father's generation. And, probably very true of current ESL classes. Cute fun read. Rather dated since it was first published in 1937, but it was a nice view of my father's generation. And, probably very true of current ESL classes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Correen

    Very clever and poignant book about a Jewish immigrant in the early 20th century. Hyman Kaplan loves learning the language in coming to American but he lacks some basic skills of pronunciation. He is, however, a bright man who uses his own logic in determining the meaning of word meanings and phrases. The result is delightful humor in typical Rosten style.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    First published as a collection in 1937, Rosten's vignettes depict the antics of one particular immigrant student in an adult education night class intended to help foreigners better assimilate to American culture. The humor of the book invariably relies on stereotyping its cast of characters in a way that would have felt warm and light-hearted in the years before the second World War, and Rosten's puns work well with the premise, even if the jokes rely entirely on the suspension of disbelief. Ro First published as a collection in 1937, Rosten's vignettes depict the antics of one particular immigrant student in an adult education night class intended to help foreigners better assimilate to American culture. The humor of the book invariably relies on stereotyping its cast of characters in a way that would have felt warm and light-hearted in the years before the second World War, and Rosten's puns work well with the premise, even if the jokes rely entirely on the suspension of disbelief. Rosten's book was incredibly well-received throughout the 1930s and 1940s--the original stories, published in 1935, were immediately published by The New Yorker--and Kaplan was popular enough to warrant two further bodies of fiction from Rosten. So popular was Rosten's book, in fact, that it was "drafted" as the first title listed in the American Services Edition paperbacks shipped to GI's during WWII. The book, however, is demonstrably a remnant of its time. Read now by the wrong audience, it could easily be misinterpreted as something anti-semitic, even though the context of the book's content should demonstrate that no such meaning would ever have been intended, and these sorts of misreadings would be inconceivable during its heyday. Rosten's stories are certainly problematic to modern sensibilities, but I tend to think that they're as much an indictment of the systematic pressure on immigrants to assimilate as it is a favorable political positioning of the practice. Rosten seems to value the cultural background of his protagonists as much as he also sympathizes with their seeming need to become more naturalized citizens of the United States. As the United States marched further toward war, and especially with the rise of anti-semitism in Europe and the closure of America's borders to Jews abroad, the ability of certain immigrants to become more functionally invisible would have been of sincere value--and while Rosten doesn't tackle the subject with any sense of genuine philosophical complexity, he assuredly understood what he was doing with his humor at the time, and thereafter. I also don't find the book as offensive given that Rosten's style of humor has been a hallmark of many great comedic characters since, including Peter Sellers' (and Steve Martin's) Inspector Clouseau. It may be my postmodern brain that makes such connections, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was reading a lost Pink Panther bit more than once throughout the book. It's worth a read for those looking for explorations of 20th century immigrant literature, but otherwise, I think it's fine to skip it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I first read this and the sequel as a kid and loved it. Having just finished them again, I still love the books. These would be excellent books to bring to a wider audience at this anti-immigrant moment. The setting is an adult education classroom of mostly immigrants who are trying desperately to learn English. Their teacher is Mr. Parkhill. Hyman Kaplan is a student in this classroom. But to say that Hyman Kaplan is a student is to miss the point. He is the creative center of the class. He can I first read this and the sequel as a kid and loved it. Having just finished them again, I still love the books. These would be excellent books to bring to a wider audience at this anti-immigrant moment. The setting is an adult education classroom of mostly immigrants who are trying desperately to learn English. Their teacher is Mr. Parkhill. Hyman Kaplan is a student in this classroom. But to say that Hyman Kaplan is a student is to miss the point. He is the creative center of the class. He can get out of almost any argument about English and win, no matter how wrong he might be. He is both a stereotype of the eager immigrant and a unique individual ferociously proud to be American. As a side note, you can learn a lot about language in this book. I think the first book is not quite as good as the second book, simply because I found myself laughing out loud more with the second book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    My daughter checked out this book from the library over and over through her high school years, and I think she was probably the only one who ever read it in those years. The book may have influenced her to major in applied linquistics in college! I just read The Education of Hyman Kaplan for the first time and it is hilarious! The book was published in 1937 and the setting is a classroom of immigrant students struggling to learn the English language. Hyman Kaplan is the star as he always has so My daughter checked out this book from the library over and over through her high school years, and I think she was probably the only one who ever read it in those years. The book may have influenced her to major in applied linquistics in college! I just read The Education of Hyman Kaplan for the first time and it is hilarious! The book was published in 1937 and the setting is a classroom of immigrant students struggling to learn the English language. Hyman Kaplan is the star as he always has some off-the-wall, genius way of phrasing and understanding English. As an example: "For a long time Mr. Parkhill had believed that the incredible things which Mr. Hyman Kaplan did to the English language were the products of a sublime and transcendental ignorance. That was the only way, for example, that he could account for Mr. Kaplan's version of the name of the fourth President of the United States: 'James Medicine.'....Any final doubts Mr. Parkhill might have felt on the whole matter were resolved once and for all when Mr. Kaplan conjugated 'to die' as 'die, dead, funeral.'" This book shows the difficulty of making sense of the English language, and those who undertake learning it as adults are to be commended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Davidg

    Wodehouse called this book “sheer genius”, and who am I to disagree with the master. I bought this in a charity shop after enjoying Rosten’s ‘Joy of Yiddish’ with no expectations. In fact, I had put this book aside as one which wouldn’t make the cut when we move next year. It consists of different stories of a class of immigrants to America as they struggle with the complexities of English. Central to the takes is the title character who cheerfully mangles the new strange language. It doesn’t po Wodehouse called this book “sheer genius”, and who am I to disagree with the master. I bought this in a charity shop after enjoying Rosten’s ‘Joy of Yiddish’ with no expectations. In fact, I had put this book aside as one which wouldn’t make the cut when we move next year. It consists of different stories of a class of immigrants to America as they struggle with the complexities of English. Central to the takes is the title character who cheerfully mangles the new strange language. It doesn’t poke fun at him or the other members of the class, but sympathises with their problems. (Rosen was both an immigrant who arrived with no English and later a teacher, just like Mr Parkhill in the book.). However, Mr Kaplan, for all his enthusiasm, insists on trying to show why his mistakes are in fact correct. He can’t answer a question without giving a speech, despite the heckles or encouragement of the rest of the class and the groans of his teacher. A joy to read. The book will be moving with us. Now to find the second volume.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Candi Ditzler

    As a Middle School Librarian I use this book with my 5th grade classes to show that just because a book is old doesn't mean it is a boring book - my students LOVE Hyman. They also enjoy making a new book cover for my poor old copy, complete with review on the back. How students embrace the plight of Hyman and his classmates struggling to learn proper English in their night class is amazing. They see their own struggles with grammar,vocabulary, and spelling acted out by adults in this adorably fu As a Middle School Librarian I use this book with my 5th grade classes to show that just because a book is old doesn't mean it is a boring book - my students LOVE Hyman. They also enjoy making a new book cover for my poor old copy, complete with review on the back. How students embrace the plight of Hyman and his classmates struggling to learn proper English in their night class is amazing. They see their own struggles with grammar,vocabulary, and spelling acted out by adults in this adorably funny book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    I still laugh hysterically at the misunderstandings of the English language by the earnest H*Y*M*A*N*K*A*P*L*A*N ever since I was introduced to him by my Jr. High Latin teacher...maybe she felt some of the same frustration in teaching us Latin that Mr.Parkhill felt in the Adult School where he taught Mr. Kaplan and his fellow immigrants...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Hyman Kaplan was a great character. I loved his confidence and the way he tried to logically explain his many hilarious ways of speaking English. The humor was a little tainted for me by the condescending, unlikeable teacher and it was hard at first to get used to reading the phonetic version of the heavily accented dialogue, but it was still a fun, light read overall.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    This was a very enjoyable re-read for me. It had been over 20 years since the last time I read it but as soon as I opened the book, I felt I was in the company of an old friend. At times touching, and always humorous, it was nice to go back and spend time with these characters once again!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I got this book for free and decided to give it a try. It was pretty funny although with the way the accents are worked into the spelling, I had some trouble figuring out what the words were supposed to be.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gemma Hawkins

    Lovely little jewel of a book.Gentle good humoured and funny

  26. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baratta

    This book is like a warm hug: endearing, witty, and a lot of fun.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    "Mr Parkhill read what some unknown Muse in secret visitation had whispered to Hyman Kaplan" By sally tarbox on 4 August 2018 Format: Kindle Edition Probably *3.5 for this highly entertaining little novel, set in an English language class for immigrants to the US in 1937. Mr Parkhill is the harrassed teacher; the students primarily Italian and Jewish. Although the action is all based around classroom exchanges, we nonetheless get an insight into the main personalities, headed by Yiddish speaker Hym "Mr Parkhill read what some unknown Muse in secret visitation had whispered to Hyman Kaplan" By sally tarbox on 4 August 2018 Format: Kindle Edition Probably *3.5 for this highly entertaining little novel, set in an English language class for immigrants to the US in 1937. Mr Parkhill is the harrassed teacher; the students primarily Italian and Jewish. Although the action is all based around classroom exchanges, we nonetheless get an insight into the main personalities, headed by Yiddish speaker Hyman Kaplan. "In his forties, a plump, red-faced gentleman, with wavy blond hair, TWO fountain pens in his outer pocket and a perpetual smile. It was a strange smile, Mr Parkhill remarked, vague, bland and consistent in its monotony." Hyman Kaplan is an unforgettable character, who reminded me of Hasek's 'Good Soldier Schweik'- either a complete fool or- we come to believe- singularly clever, always leaving the authorities with egg on their face. Thus when corrected for the phrasing of his advice to a relative: "if your eye falls on a bargain, please pick it up", Kaplan emerges victorious with his explanation "Mine oncle has a gless eye." There is a somewhat combative relationship between Kaplan and his fellow students, notably the quiet but more linguistically adept Miss Minick. But little hints from his class work suggest a logical and warm hearted individual. The humour hinges on the vagaries of the English language: Kaplan conjugates 'to bite': "If is write 'write, wrote, written', so vy isn't 'bite, bote, bitten?" He gives "a fervent speech extolling the D'Oyley Carte Company's performance of an operetta by two English gentlemen referred to as 'Goldberg and Solomon." He gleefully participates in correcting Miss Mitnick's composition on her job: "Aha! Vaitress!", he cried out."Should be a' V' in vaitress!" Rosten writes a convincing Yiddish acent; very funny.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    "Who can tell us the meaning of 'vast'?" asked Mr. Parkhill lightly. Mr. Kaplan's hand shot up, volunteering wisdom. He was all proud grins. Mr. Parkhill, in the rashness of the moment, nodded to him. Mr. Kaplan rose, radiant with joy. "'Vast!' It's commink fromm diraction. Ve have four diractions: de naut, de sot, de heast, and de VAST." That interaction is charming, but there are other excerpts I wouldn't feel comfortable even copying down--which is why I find this book a challenge to review. I "Who can tell us the meaning of 'vast'?" asked Mr. Parkhill lightly. Mr. Kaplan's hand shot up, volunteering wisdom. He was all proud grins. Mr. Parkhill, in the rashness of the moment, nodded to him. Mr. Kaplan rose, radiant with joy. "'Vast!' It's commink fromm diraction. Ve have four diractions: de naut, de sot, de heast, and de VAST." That interaction is charming, but there are other excerpts I wouldn't feel comfortable even copying down--which is why I find this book a challenge to review. I feel like a grinch for not enjoying this book about a Polish immigrant learning English, and I can easily see why it was a hit back in the 1940s with its wordplay and malapropisms. But with my 21st-century sensibilities, I feel irritated with the condescending tone of the author. There are passages that made me smile, but overall, the humor is dated and feels insensitive. I wish I could remember who recommended the book to me and why I bought it. It is amazing how quickly cultural norms change--this was originally published in The New Yorker, a paragon of taste and style. They wouldn't publish it today.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Blackmer

    I am a professor of English and Judaic Studies, and have in the past not only taught a class on Jewish Stories, but also regularly teach that masterwork of, among other things, Jewish storytelling, the Hebrew Bible. Thus, coming to this book with considerable experience, I am conflicted about this volume of thematically interlaced vignettes, which originally appeared in the New Yorker in the 1930s. First, it is atrociously dated, and bandies about an embarrassing and unselfconscious sexism. Oddl I am a professor of English and Judaic Studies, and have in the past not only taught a class on Jewish Stories, but also regularly teach that masterwork of, among other things, Jewish storytelling, the Hebrew Bible. Thus, coming to this book with considerable experience, I am conflicted about this volume of thematically interlaced vignettes, which originally appeared in the New Yorker in the 1930s. First, it is atrociously dated, and bandies about an embarrassing and unselfconscious sexism. Oddly, for a work so profoundly steeped in Yiddish culture, and the supposed world view of Yiddish speaking immigrants to the United States, it has almost nothing to say about Jewish culture per se. It is either mediocre, excruciatingly bad, or without excuse, depending on which section one happens to be reading and one's state of mind. Further, it is, quite frankly, a work of Jewish minstrelsy of an acutely unfortunate character. The book takes place in the classroom of a teacher named Mr. Parkhill, who tries to remain patient and calm with his somehow witty but unteachable student Hyman Kaplan. Various pedagogical ventures into Yiddish vernacular in English ensue, and, for whatever reason, they are acutely grating and embarrassing. From this vantage point, it appears like a quasi-"humorous" vehicle for expressing a genteel antisemitism through laughing at the perennial errors in grammar, usage, and enunciation of Mr. Kaplan--which is true despite his regular displays of wit and ingenuity "despite it all."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katy Wheatley

    This was mildly amusing. I think, had I read it when it came out, or even when I was younger, I would have found it much more entertaining. As it is, it works much better as a newspaper article, which is how it originally came out, rather than as a book. The premise, that the beleaguered English teacher is trying to teach English to new American citizens and what a job he has of it with their crazy ways of speaking English and their hilarious mistakes, isn't really that funny any more. At least This was mildly amusing. I think, had I read it when it came out, or even when I was younger, I would have found it much more entertaining. As it is, it works much better as a newspaper article, which is how it originally came out, rather than as a book. The premise, that the beleaguered English teacher is trying to teach English to new American citizens and what a job he has of it with their crazy ways of speaking English and their hilarious mistakes, isn't really that funny any more. At least not the way it is written here. And the star of the show, Hyman Kaplan, who is supposed to redeem everything because we can't help but fall in love with him etc. Well, I didn't really fall in love with him I'm afraid. I wish I had. The first essay was mildly amusing and then I got quite bored. Thankfully it was short.

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