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J is for Just

Inspired by Stuck in a Book, I am continuing this occasional series, in which I will discuss favorite authors, alphabetically. The latest is Ward Just.

How many books do I have by Just?
Four: An Unfinished Season, Forgetfulness, The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert and Other Stories, and The Weather in Berlin.

How many of these have I read?
Three: The first three listed above, plus Echo House, which I read and then donated. I've had The Weather in Berlin for at least ten years but still haven't gotten around to it.

How did I start reading Just?
Not really sure. It might have been from my friend "Golden Rule Jones" (a pseudonym) who used to write a Chicago-focused litblog of that same name back in the Noughts. Just had Chicago roots, so it's probable that GRJ recommended An Unfinished Season (2004), which was well-received in its day, including being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

General impressions...
An Unfinished Season is a wonderful coming-of-age story (probably modeled on Just's own teenaged years) which is set in Chicago and the wealthy North Shore of the late 1940s, where the middle-class protagonist nervously moves among the rich and overprivileged. The book was a departure from much of Just's other fiction which was highly political in focus, which likely stemmed from Just's early years as a well-regarded Vietnam War correspondent and his strong familiarity with the professional and social circles of Washington, D.C. Forgetfulness (2006) is very political, but also personal - set in the post-9/11 days of terrorist fear, it explores a retired CIA agent's struggle to come to grips with the shocking murder of his wife. A very powerful book when I first read it, although I wonder how well its timely-at-the-time subject has aged, fifteen years later.

If you've never read Just, you should start with...
An Unfinished Season. 

If I had to get rid of one Just book, it would be...
Echo House, which I did get rid of; although it was a National Book Award finalist in 1997, I didn't really connect with it.

Other "I" candidates:
Sarah Orne Jewett, James Joyce.

February 21, 2021 in Books | Permalink

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