Now, out of inspiration, in the dark Berlin winter, he sifts through past and present for a new creative direction.
Just's intelligent, compelling, and meticulously crafted fiction offers unexpected insights into the psychology of people obsessed with art or political intrigue and faced with circumstances that make pursuit of their passion, or addiction, difficult if not dire. An ever evolving writer with a deep sense of global connectedness and the habitual abuse of power, Just has reached a new plateau in this novel, a work of subtle suspense and significant irony that penetrates hidden terrain similar to that explored by Conrad, Greene, and Didion.
©2002 Ward Just
"Narrator Robertson Dean enhances Ward Just's subtleties in structure and character development with his impeccable diction and elegant pacing. His voice rumbles in the ear, his words dropping like velvet pebbles into a pond of dark silk." (AudioFile)
"Just writes seamlessly, mixing spoken dialogue, interior monologue, and narrative so that the story unreels before the reader as in a film. Recognized for writing that puts him among the best in the United States today, Just portrays a talented person, trapped by circumstance and lassitude, breaking free into new creativity and insight." (Library Journal)
It is certainly one of the best I've listened to in the past year. This was the first work by Ward Just that I've come across, and I'm surprised that I had never heard of him ... none of my friends are familiar with him, either. What a loss for us all, since his is one of the more powerful American voices of the past generation. Although he cites Henry James as a major influence - and certainly the subtle ways that we enter the minds of the characters is Jamesian -- his prose reminds me of F Scott Fitzgerald who appears in the novel briefly in a story told by the narrator's father. Ward Just was a journalist in the 1960s and left the newspaper business to write novels and short stories. This book centers on an aging film director, Dixon Greenwood, spending three months at a humanities colony in Berlin, not too far from where he directed his best film some thirty years earlier. What happens during his stay, and what he remembers, is what the book is about. Greenwood is a wonderful character, compelling as much as for what he does and says as for what he holds back.
Given the subject matter, Dean's voice, who here sounds a good deal like Orson Wells, is perfectly suited. His performance is powerfully convincing.
Ward Just is one of the great American writers. His reporting in Vietnam stands with Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin as some of the sharpest war reporting.
Later in his career, Just turned towards political thrillers, but "The Weather in Berlin", despite it's Len Deighton-like title is the story of a Hollywood player past his prime, a museum piece who is suffocating in his glass display case.
When a German institution invites him to teach, and relive his greatest success--a scandal-laden masterpiece of cinema made in Germany decades-ago--he accepts. The trip renews friendships and scandals and allows him a rare second chance.
Just manages to paint his characters in vibrant HD digital color, in the black and silver of 35mm and the sun-softened pallet of memory and the independent film of the 70s. I admired the writing, and the characters, but as someone in his 40s, this book came too soon in my life, and I was left with, mercifully, an intellectual understanding and not a shared experience for this older man.
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