When Steve Stern appeared on the literary scene The New York Times Book Review
hailed him as ďa prodigiously talented writer who arrives unheralded like one of the apparitions in his own stories.Ē In his new novel, The Angel of Forgetfulness
, he interweaves three stories about characters who take flight from their ordinary lives and are plunged into extraordinary circumstances. At the center of it all is an unfinished manuscriptóan adventure about a fallen angel named Mocky and his half-mortal son Nachman, who both take up residence on the Lower East Side of New York circa 1900. Their story has been written by Nathan Hart, a timid proofreader for The Jewish Daily Forward
, who woos a young woman named Keni with his exotic tale. Seduced by the power of his own imagination, Nathan is drawn deliriously away from Keni into the world of his story, the Jewish underworld of arsonists, horse poisoners, and thieves. More than half a century later, Keni, on her deathbed, gives Nathanís now-tattered manuscript to her young nephew, Saul, with the injunction that Saul complete the story himself. Saulís evasion of the task prompts a journey into the crucible of the sixties, one fueled by sex, drugs, and the dust of a golem in the attic of a medieval synagogue in Prague.
Dexterously juggling the narratives of Saul, Nathan, Mocky, and Nachman until they all merge in the novelís satisfying close, Stern has created a magical tour de force of the storytellerís art, one that celebrates the turbulent romance between past and present, art and obsession.