Here, in The Lampshade, is the ultimate blast of old evil: a lampshade made of human skin, possibly from prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp, turns up in New Orleans. Jacobson goes in search of its provenance. I'm not spoiling anything by revealing that science doesn't quite allow him to nail it down. The book is really about the notions of history and human wretchedness the lampshade shakes loose, and, in a trippy way, about Jacobson's kinship with the item: "the warmth of its touch, the strange, greasy smoothness…the way the stretched panels looked to be marks with striations similar to the ones I saw on my own skin."
Part of what amazes me about Jacobson's writing is that it's both gonzo and fiercely, fiercely smart. He resists cheap titillation, whether he's talking to Holocaust deniers, the actress who played a Nazi commandant in the porny Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, or David Duke. (Duke, the psychic connection between the Third Reich and Louisiana, is hanging out in Austria, of all places.) Not every tangent Jacobson follows is particularly illuminating, as he is the first to admit. But he's working like mad to do right by the lampshade, or, at least, to discover its untold story. The Lampshade is an awfully good book and it's exceptionally heartfelt.