ISBN 978-1-956005-61-5 300 pages $20.00
"I wanted to write about a woman lost in a culture she didn’t understand."
by David Moscovich in Rain Taxi
In Forgotten Night, Rebecca Goodman raises the specter of reborn violence, lingering still in the aftermath of two world wars, the Holocaust and numerous atrocities hidden in plain sight. Trying to unearth the meaning of cryptic notes found in the margins of her grandfather’s WWI army diary, an American woman follows his path through war, tracing his steps through small villages in France, hoping to piece together fragments of her family’s history in Europe. From her encounters with an artist working on the fringes between the human and the animal to a village parade that turns into a Kristallnacht, the narrator finds herself caught in the unexpected confusion and chaos of a resurgence of antisemitism where time and place and collective memory collide in a dreamlike reality. The narrator’s journey lets us in on the larger questions we should be asking in the western world: who are we as a culture? What direction but back into history are we all willing to allow as our purpose? Goodman’s prose produces nothing short of a masterpiece.
Quest novels, from the Odyssey to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, are familiar. forgotten night defies easy classification, as elusive in genre as it is hypnotic in its originality. What, to cite Wittgenstein, are its family resemblances? Several can be noted, but with great caution, because we are talking about cousins, not siblings. In style it often calls to mind Gertrude Stein at her most gnomic, or her adopted son Hemingway’s clipped precision. Thematically it is related to James’s compelling theme of American innocents in the Old World, where every Isabel Archer will meet her predatory Osmond. Because N is a writer, working, as it were, on the novel we are reading, the book belongs in the ranks of metafictions about the struggle to capture in an ongoing text a fragmentary past. Think, for instance, of Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.
Eugene K. Garber
Rebecca Goodman’s Forgotten Night layers dream sequence with Medieval carnival and a necklace to offer protection with accidental artist-guides to the journey. Will the narrator find the meaning of the news-clipping her mother saved in her grandfather’s World War I diary? Will it lead her to a descendant-survivor of Jewish pogroms? Will she write her book?
Keep reading as you dine under bowler hat chandeliers, find hints in a Mendelssohn concert in a cathedral, in bird-man sculptures installed in a former synagogue, in lost dialectics, compelling beauty of grotesque altarpiece, and memories of childhood as language “raining down on my skin …”
So much is not known but haunts through violent sounds by the river, missing memory of the prior night, horror of village carnival that shifts to Kristallnacht, self that doesn’t reflect in the mirror consistently but might shift from self to mother to vacancy. But will the man with the movie camera expose another rise of fascism? Or if “to describe a violent act is to annihilate yourself …” will a fire dance illuminate our journey to sophia, wisdom?
Seas of memories, seas of written words, seas of forgotten languages. In an extraordinary tour de force of beauty, terror, and wisdom, Forgotten Night is a journey to one’s roots in a rumination on what it means to seek a past buried by local histories. Forgotten Night deciphers the meaning of personal identity in the postmodern dilemma, constructing identity from that which has been erased, with fragments floating in its expanse. In this sea of uncertainty of an uncertain sense of who we are, we connect.
With Forgotten Night, the Shoah becomes nearer to approachable in Goodman’s blistering, intimate, woeful silence. Goodman eases readers into a nuanced, personal, itinerant, inimitably American perspective on Holocaust remembrance. Forgotten Night should be required reading for those who recognize the need to continually reassess the incomprehensible suffering caused via unchecked nationalism.
On Rebecca Goodman’s Aftersight
…The power of this poetic fiction—a fiction of a very real death—emanates from Goodman’s Stein-like maxims which help make sense of what is clearly, in her now fragile world, without sense, without meaning….Goodman transforms her experiences into a kind of mythic story that also represents her attempts to heal herself…in a kind of magical recovery….Peace and meaning come gradually through language, the very language of Goodman’s book….The private sorrow has turned into a public act. This gifted author ends her work in a long prose poem titled “Night Garden,” answering, like Molly Bloom, “yes,” to the voyage into darkness, a kind of dream garden “full of green.”
A book-long, disassembled keen, a reverse index of longing after loss, Rebecca Goodman’s spare Aftersight is a wonderful achievement. It is connected in its stillness to influences such as the ancient Chinese poets as well as contemporary innovation. Its clarity and dwelling place: consciousness.
It would be hard to overstate how thrilled it made me to read Rebecca Goodman’s new collection Aftersight. As is in her earlier work, The Surface of Motion, the writing is always superb—and always deeply compelling.
David St. John
All the echoes of memory and the rapidly disintegrating past come into play in Rebecca Goodman’s beautiful meditative novel—a chamber piece for embattled voices that unfolds inside the natural world. The narrator, taking on guises, tries to make sense of what it means to be alive, “these things I can think and feel.” Goodman writes at perfect pitch, looking back, looking forward, on the border between holding on and letting go. I couldn’t stop reading.
Rebecca Goodman is the author of the fictions The Surface of Motion (Green Integer 2008) and Aftersight (Spuyten Duyvil 2015), and the co-author of a textbook for Freshman Composition, The Assignment: Why Am I Writing This Essay? (Fountainhead Press 2011). She has read from her work nationally and internationally. She is on the board of &Now. She teaches creative writing at Chapman University. She lives in Orange, California with her husband, poet-novelist, Martin Nakell.