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Books on Monday: Forgetfulness

Ward Just is one of my favorite writers, despite everything. "Everything" encapsulates books about laconic, stoic American men. I usually can't bear them. But Mr Just makes them attractive in a way that owes nothing, ultimately, to Hemingway. Founded so dramatically in 1776 and 1789, the Unites States is surprisingly fond of men who don't talk. Ward Just is their modern chronicler.

In The Good Shepherd, there's an amazing line about how everyone but the WASPs are "visitors" in the United States. Mr Just's fiction resonates to that tonality without being at all dismissive. Once upon a time, this was a country in which the spawn of proletarian Protestant professionals could rise to the top, as if on the strength of a Skull and Bones handshake. They knew they were the only people who mattered, and, until women knocked down the gates, all the other guys in the country were happy to let them rule.

Sometimes, being an American is like being a detective, examining a case in which something terribly sordid has taken place in a preacher's bathroom. 



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