The Angel of Forgetfulness is ruined, as so many things are, by damn dirty hippies.
Okay, put down your incense. I was checking to see if you're paying attention.
I enjoyed Steve Stern's book (full disclosure: it was a very close second as my own Read This! choice), particularly the mythic storyline where an angel takes the back stairs to Earth and fathers a son who becomes obsessed with an actress, and so on. (As opposed to my fellow LBCers Derik and Dan, in their much more thoughtful and coherent dialogue on the book, who seem to like the fantasy story least of all.)
If I was trying to place this book in a continuum, I'm not sure exactly where I'd put it. So I'll steal someone else's placement. You know the way clubs sometimes fill their monthly music calendars with descriptions of bands that aren't this meets that, but more: "If you like Neutral Milk Hotel and have a soft spot for Bauhaus, you'll love She Wants Revenge"? Michael Dirda, in his review of Stern's book, does something similar putting him in the following illustrious company: Stanley Elkin, Cynthia Ozick, Michael Chabon, Mark Helprin, Melvin Jules Bukiet and Philip Roth. He goes on to say why:
All of these might be thought of, very loosely, as innovative and restless practitioners of contemporary American-Jewish fantasy. They draw on Jewish tradition and folklore, the legacy of Sholom Aleichem, Kafka and Isaac Bashevis Singer, the verbal razzmatazz of Yiddish.
And that sums up nicely what I really admired and responded to in this book. It mixes the fantastical story of Mocky the Angel with a living and breathing portrait of Nathan and Saul's experiences of two very different New Yorks (bound together by the same woman), and Saul's later adventures in communes. The angelic story, the story's lost and found narrative, is what holds everything together -- it's the one thread that the book falls apart without, for me at least. This is a book filled with strange, lonely characters, always on the move, always caught between at least two worlds.
I suppose I need the ethereal to balance out the presence of the world with all those hippies. Kidding, again. Well, sort of.
Anyway. Are there any story-within-a-story books or American-Jewish fantasies any of you want to recommend or discuss? Writers left off the list? You hate Neutral Milk Hotel?