“The memories that elude you will disappear.
And what replaces them?”
Readers of Rebecca Goodman’s Forgotten Night couldn’t find a more laconic protagonist on a meandering quest, one that layers dream sequence with Medieval carnival and a necklace to offer protection with accidental artist-guides for the journey. Will she find the meaning of the news clipping her mother saved in her grandfather’s World War diary? There are hints in a Mendelssohn concert in a cathedral, in bird-man sculptures installed at a former synagogue, in lost dialectics, in the compelling beauty of a grotesque altarpiece, in memories of childhood as language “raining down on my skin …”
Seas of memories, seas of written words, seas of forgotten languages. A journey meant to come to the realization of one’s roots becomes more a rumination on what it means to seek evidence of a past buried by local histories. She only has a few words and the world around her offers denial. Like a sea, we are provided with signs and dissolving clues. Forgotten Night attempts to decipher the meaning of personal identity at a time when history has been deliberately forgotten by others. We are left in a postmodern dilemma, constructing identity from that which has been erased, with mere fragments floating in its expanse. In this sea we are left with an uncertain sense of who we are, trying to connect these fragments.
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.