Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It was either last year or earlier this year that I first read Ward Just. Just is a former journalist and war correspondent. An Unfinished Season was a well written book, but it just didn't affect me. However, his latest novel (a Houghton Mifflin title)Forgetfulness reads like it was written by a man under intense pressure, using as few words possibly to convey a point or express something. Now I know why Just is heralded with such acclaim. Reading his prose is like taking part in a fight. Each line hits you harder and harder. By the end of the book, I already know I'm going to be KO'd.

She was trying to put her mind in another place altogether but was so far unsuccessful. She was unable to free herself of the forest. It seemed to her the very end of the known world so she conjured images of welcome aliens. For now she was in the hands of strangers, dubious men who did not belong here. So she spoke aloud, telling them to be careful, to take their time, not to be so rough. She was no longer young, as they could see. And she was injured and not herself. She thought to add, "Please."

Florette, a fifty-five year old French woman, married to an American and living in the shadow of the Pyrenees, has injured herself while taking a hike in the foothills of the mountains that lead to Spain and beyond. But the men taking her down the hill in a stretcher are strangers. Florette's pain comes in rushes and her mind wanders, but it's her desire for the mundane cigarette or to take a pee, that makes the situation too real. I can picture soldiers in Vietnam being mortally wounded, being husked back to awaiting choppers, but asking for a cigarette in their dying breaths. Here Just, reflects this intense and common urge onto the reader, making us all too aware that we would probably react the same way if the situation were reversed.

Now reading:
Ward Just Forgetfulness
H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau
H.G. Wells The Time Machine

Just finished:
Jack Kerouac Tristessa
Sarah Waters Fingersmith

5 comments:

Carl V. said...

Ellie at Box of Books recently sent me a copy of H.G. Wells' short stories which I really look forward to reading soon.

M. Barresi said...

Carl, I have never read Wells, nor really cared to have read him if it weren't for the Slaves of Golconda. But I was quickly surprised by Wells's literary prowess. Both books are gripping so far and quite insightful. They're some fun reads. I feel like a kid reading them for the first time.

Dorothy W. said...

I'm happy to read Wells for the Slaves, because I wouldn't have picked up him either, and I'm finding I'm enjoying him. It's nice to be stretched in that way!

Stefanie said...

have never read Just before. You make reading him sound like a very physical experience.

M. Barresi said...

Wells, has been a great new discovery. I don't know if I'd go out and read anything else of his, but I'm glad I read these two books.

And Stefanie, this Just novel is visceral for sure. It's much more intense than An Unfinished Season and it's a better novel by far. I can now highly recommend Forgetfulness.