I put on the t-shirt at the top of the pile in the drawer this morning. It was a t-shirt with Hebrew type for the "University of Alaska" that I got as a gift about a decade ago. That reminded me that I didn't return to the subject of Michael Chabon. I finished the novel over the weekend and can now definitely say that I am in the camp of those reviewers who liked it.
The main thing is that Chabon imagines an entire world out of an alternate reality scenario. For the most part it works.
Three comments for the naysayers:
(1) There are a couple of things I would have imagined differently, but hey, when I write about what I imagine the Jewish autonomous region of Alaska would be like, I get to change things to my liking. And when you imagine your own "cloud cuckoo land" you can do it your way.
(2) Imagining a scenario in which Israel was destroyed in 1948 is not the same as wishing that it had happened. I don't really know what Chabon's politics are but it's hard to read this novel as anti-Zionist. Warning, spoiler ahead: you might read it as anti-"Temple Mount Faithful" but that's a far cry from seeing this as Chabon's manifesto against Israel.
(3) You might not like mixing "[noir] genre" and "literary" in novels. But it's not like Chabon woke up one morning and said let's throw them together ("you've got your peanut butter in my chocolate") and see what happens. He seems pretty committed to a project of breaking down--or at least playing with--such boundaries/labels.