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"Forgetfulness" by Ward Just. Houghton Mifflin. 2006. 277 pages. $25.
Our little Island is flush with writers, not only writers of letters to the editor and journal keepers, not only bloggers and closeted novelists, but successful, nationally and internationally respected journalists, historians, academicians, and novelists. Among the very best of the novelists is Ward Just. His books include the National Book Award finalist "Echo House" and last year's "An Unfinished Season," winner of the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest is "Forgetfulness."
Forgetfullness by Ward Just
Ward Just's 14 previous books have been primarily about specific ideas. They are stories artfully woven around concepts, both personal and political. "Forgetfulness" continues in this tradition, but the concepts here are often a bit obscure, open to interpretation. The story line is developed often through remembrances of simple events that, by their recitation, define the characters, the ambiance, emotion, motivation and the story itself. It is all written in Just's hauntingly descriptive style that make his stories seem as if they could be coming from your own dreams.
Author Ward Just. Photo by Nina Bramhall
The great Argentine literary critic and man of letters Jorge Luis Borges was primarily a man of ideas. His once popular book, "Labyrinths - Selected Stories & Other Writings," is a simple exposition of a number of very specific ideas, some in short story form. One of my favorites is his story entitled, "Funes the Memorious," a tale of a man who remembered every aspect of every second of every day he lived. Borges wrote in that story, "I suspect, however, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions. In the teeming world of Funes, there were only details, almost immediate in their presence."
If thought requires forgetfulness, then what we remember becomes of utmost importance. "Forgetfulness" is a story that will be remembered as the questions it raises swirl around the cavernous recesses left by what we have forgotten.
Author Ward Just will be signing his book on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Edgartown Books on Main Street. For more information, call 508-627-8463.