I read Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer — and left it in Illinois for my mother when I was visiting. She suffers from serious dementia, but expressed excitement about this book and wanted to read it. It’s set in 17th-century Poland — during the aftermath of a catastrophic massacre of the Jews. Messiahs and Devils abound in this book amid the 17th century music Singer has miraculously composed. My mother was born in a similar place in this vicinity. My mother told me her mother died of fear. They were all terribly mad.
The best book I read this year was Brian Hart’s The Bully of Order. It is a dense, brilliant book, and — I don’t say this lightly — I suspect it will be seen as Hart’s first real contribution to the canon.
Hart owes Cormac McCarthy in the same way that Cormac McCarthy owes William Faulkner. He’s that good. So — why haven’t you heard of him?
Well, you won’t see him at parties, because he doesn’t drink anymore and even when he did he was always the guy standing in the corner. He’s not on Facebook or Twitter, and, as far as I know, he’s never set foot in New York City (let alone Brooklyn) — even Austin was a little too high speed for him. Where Hart is most comfortable is the only place that ought to matter, which is on the page.
I’ve been lucky to come up with some talented people — Kevin Powers and Smith Henderson in fiction, Miriam Greenberg and Roger Reeves in poetry — but Hart is one who ought to be mentioned in that group and isn’t. Bully of Order is not always an easy book, but it’s brilliant, and Hart is an incredible writer who will likely go down as one of the greats.
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