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Mating by Norman Rush: Book of the Mouth Club

We are starting a new feature here at Brazenhead – Book of the Mouth Club. A place to recommend books, not new ones, although the titles may be new to some. I have long been obsessed with neglected and forgotten work, but these days it seems books get forgotten at a much quicker pace than ever before. Some disappear before they’ve had their fifteen minutes or even found a parking spot in the overcrowded to be read pile that lives in the backsides of our brains.

The first book I’d like to bring to your attention is ‘Mating' by Norman Rush, which, although it won The National Book Award for fiction in 1991, has still managed to slip away, and certainly not garnered the readership a masterpiece like this deserves.

Rush writes as if from a different era in a style we are not generally accustomed to, and the sense of displacement from time that results suits the story. A story that deals with the questions of how we live our lives. How modern or how traditional, what mixture of methods might we choose, and what can we can take from the past to use in our futures.

Some have said this book is especially pertinent to our time. It is, as it was to its own time and possibly will be in a time to come. To my mind, one sign of a great work is when it seems to have been written out of time yet delivers a timeless message. A singular voice telling a universal tale.

I don’t want to describe too much of the book, as I think it’s best to approach any work of art with as clean a slate as possible. What I will say is the characters, a man and a woman, live their lives in very determined ways and are always self monitoring. They are strong and smart people with opposable thumbs, and this makes for a tasty cocktail of a story.

My best argument for reading this book is that it makes a great companion. It amuses you. It engages and pushes you. Sometimes it makes you pick up the dictionary. I like that in my books. You will be a better person for having read it, and it will be there for you. Not just while you’re reading it, but after as it lingers, sitting on your shelf waiting for the next time you come for a full visit.

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