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The Angel of Forgetfulness Hardcover – March 7, 2005

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heaven and earth engage in a tug of war over the Jewish soul in this sprawling historical bildungsroman. Stern (The Wedding Jester) combines three distinct but interlinked narratives. The first tells the story of Nathan Hart, a Jewish immigrant on the Lower East Side circa 1910 who woos young Jewish bohemian Keni by telling her the second narrative-a tale about an angel named Mocky and his half-human son, Nachman, both of them also living on the Lower East Side in self-imposed exile from heaven. The third narrative belongs to Keni's nephew Saul, a morose, lonely young man who embarks on an odyssey through the post-Vietnam sexual and psychedelic revolutions that takes him to a hippie commune and an avant-garde theater troupe before he settles down as a hermetic Jewish-studies scholar. The many intersections between the stories of Nathan, Mocky, Nachman and Saul suggest the timelessness of a certain Jewish variant of male alienation, as the protagonists struggle-and usually fail-to assimilate and find themselves torn between the carnal and the spiritual. The novel's greatest strength is its colorful depiction of life in a turn-of-the-century Jewish New York full of gangsters, whores, shopkeepers, socialists, artists and yellow journalists, which Stern renders with a piquant Yiddish inflection and a light dusting of magical realism. Somewhat out of place is the story of Saul, a Portnoy-esque figure desperate to lose his virginity, both obsessed with and repelled by the countercultural sexual carnival whirling around him. Stern serves up vivid characters and atmospherics and an often poetic picaresque, but never integrates the novel's complex structure into a satisfying whole.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The bright humor, colorful characters, and potent blend of realism and Jewish mysticism found in Stern's earlier work, particularly The Wedding Jester (1999), attain deeper resonance in his enrapturing new novel. A far-roaming serial bildungsroman, it encompasses a century and links the amazing adventures of an angel called Mocky, who ensures that newborns forget "their prenatal knowledge of paradise" until he falls in love with life on earth; his half-human son, Nachman; Nathan, a proofreader for the Jewish Daily Forward circa 1910 who is at once blessed and cursed with a gift for storytelling; and misfit Saul, who comes to New York from Memphis to attend college in 1969 but who learns the most from an aging relative, the chain-smoking painter Keni. Like the Tree of Life in the Jewish mystical tradition, Stern's vividly picaresque and ingeniously plotted novel intricately meshes earth and heaven, past and present, body and soul as it captures the spirit of the now fabled Lower East Side, with its packed Yiddish theaters and fierce Jewish gangsters; a hippie commune in Arkansas; and a haunted synagogue in Prague. Stern's magical, sexy, suspenseful, and cleverly metaphysical saga brilliantly contrasts the lure of the imagined world with the greater promise of life itself. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (March 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

STEVE STERN's fiction, with its deep grounding in Yiddish folklore, has prompted critics such as Cynthia Ozick to hail him as the successor to Isaac Bashevis Singer. He is the author of critically acclaimed books such as Isaac and the Undertaker's Daughter, winner of the Pushcart Writers' Choice Award; The Wedding Jester, which won the National Jewish Book Award; The Angel of Forgetfulness, one of The Washington Post's Best Books of 2006; and, The North God. Stern currently lives in Balston Spa, New York, and teaches at Skidmore College.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Laurel Jenkins-Crowe on April 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Memphis and Arkansas in the 60s. The Lower East Side in the 1900s. Heaven. The depths, heights, sidespins and blind alleys of magical realism. The stage. An attic in Prague. The Catskills. Where up is down. (Somewhere else you want to go maybe? Ingrate!)

I hestitate to call this the culmination of Stern's work only because that would leave him nowhere to go. His individual sentences are more poetic than most author's books. His realism is real, his magic is Magic, and his weaving of the two is seamless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Todd A. Gray on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did not fall in love with the plot of this book as much as I fell in love with Stern's characters. You will enjoy spending your time with them during the read and will remember them all as if you really got to know them.
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By ronald manheimer on January 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm just getting to know Stern's work (novels and short stories). This is an enormously ambitious novel in its scope and structure and at times I struggled to follow. Stern has a wonderful way with language and is a great storyteller. There are times when he gets carried away in which imagination and fantasy part company and the mastery displayed in much of the novel is lost. Still, I read the whole work and enjoyed most of it.
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By ejk on December 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read the other reviews and felt compelled to take the reviews down a notch. The novel works when it disquiets the reader and challenges your notions of appropriate and productive behavior. It works less well when delving into the world of fantasy. Still, one of the best reads of 2005, but be prepared to stick with it past page 200 when the more personal story tapers off and the fanciful story dominates.
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