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Review: Pete Hamill's 'forever'

Updated on January 13, 2015

Six Hundred Slices

forever is a loaf of a book, six hundred slices in all.

You can almost smell the story, warm and hefty as Irish soda bread baked with beer and rye.

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This may be an old book, but forever is timeless.

When the book was published in 2003, the title lacked a capital letter, probably because for mere mortals, there’s only a little forever inside the bigger one.

Bring a knife (or a small sharp sword) and an appetite for all things pasty, black or Celtic. Bring an appetite for Jews and Africans and ‘Ricans and Coltrane, for subway tunnels and politics, for gossip, murder and the messy miracle of the printing press.

Be hungry for New York, read through eyes that have seen it all.

New York City, From the Seedy Side

The first bites of forever are best poked with a polished point and teased off with care, odd bits and all.

The flavor of the book changes, at first with a nudge as the crust gives way, then with a hard shove into the soft realms. Hamill doesn’t give the reader a choice. The first mysterious plot turns poke the tongue like literary caraway seeds.

“Here. Eat this,” Hamill insists, as mystic nuggets tucked between the pages flavor his prose.

Spit or Swallow

The words themselves have a lilting satisfaction that makes parable easier to digest. “Ah, so that’s what it is, is it?” I asked Hamill out loud. He didn’t answer, but I kept reading.

Give me more, Pete. Spread on a little Kerrygold.

Anticipation becomes eventuality, and like many books three-quarters eaten, forever tasted a tad dusty on the tongue somewhere after four hundred pages. The air pockets, filled with what had been 'fun facts' weighed the narrative instead of lifting it.

Generally, Pete Hamill baked a loaf of wonder (it’s wonder enough to write a six-hundred page novel in third person present, without the pilot light extinguishing and the whole story going cold). I ate myself into a world that I wanted to finish, but that I did not wish to leave. Sometimes, when we accept magic, the ordinary becomes slightly majestic, and the pathos on our planet is an oven for suffering and art.

forever, after all, may require humor, hot mitts and fortitude, but it never ends.


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