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The Eastern Shore by Ward Just

The Eastern Shore

by Ward Just

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In The Eastern Shore Ward Just considers the life of a newspaper editor who works his way from small-town Indiana all the way to Washington, DC. In the nation’s capital he heads up a major, influential daily. He spends his career preparing each day’s newsworthy events for the world’s consumption, but … his life contains only a few those moments of drama - becoming estranged from his father after as a teenager incurring his wrath, finding out his onetime lover has died in Africa - that form a stark contrast from the lives he publicizes. The man spends his retirement struggling to write his memoirs, and eventually he figures out that he’ll never get it done. Even the stately country home he purchases for his golden years has fallen into disrepair and desuetude.

It’s a curious journey Mr. Just takes us on: he provides the life of an unappealing protagonist, a man who’s married to his job, and lives with it for better or for worse for 40 years or more. This hero sustains his bachelorhood throughout his life, and never has any very grand regrets about it, apparently, in spite of the fact that he loves and is loved pretty deeply several times in his life.

It could be that the title provides a major clue. When the chief character Ned reaches his (ineffectual, rather stilted) retirement in a crumbling estate on the Maryland shore, he has reached the end of the land, and is forced to stop. But it’s the only thing that’s stopped him. His focus is on other peoples’ news - those who are the subject of the stories, and those for whom the various newspapers are published, has dictated his life in spite of a handful of promising affairs. Even the journalism trade is reaching a retirement point: daily print withers in favor of real-time mass consumption of “news” on the internet.
The storytelling here adds to the art, and may be the main recommendation of this book. It’s bare-bones, almost like a news article in a big-city daily. The few excursions we have into Ned’s deeper self are the times when he frustrates his would-be life partners by preferring his career to any kind of close companionship. There are a few lessons learned along the way about journalistic responsibilities, and it could be we’re supposed to be touched and gratified that Ned learned the lessons and applied them to his work. ( )
  LukeS | Feb 26, 2017 |
There are so many 5-star reviews on this book, but the story just wasn’t for me. It didn’t hold my interest and I thought the main character Ned Ayres was dull. I couldn’t bring myself to care about him or his life. I finally came to the realization that there just wasn’t enough of a story to keep going and gave up at 50%. ( )
  bugzna2000 | Dec 8, 2016 |
Well written. Good insights into the newspaper business, both financial and editorial. The stories just didn't seem to fit or flow. ( )
  Doondeck | Dec 1, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544836588, Hardcover)

From an American master comes another “beautifully languid, emotionally intense tale” (Entertainment Weekly), this time of a newspaper editor’s fateful decision to expose a small-town fugitive.

Ned Ayres, the son of a judge in an Indiana town in midcentury America, has never wanted anything but a newspaper career—in his father’s appalled view, a “junk business,” a way of avoiding responsibility. The defining moment comes early, when Ned is city editor of his hometown paper. One of his beat reporters fields a tip: William Grant, the town haberdasher, married to the bank president’s daughter and father of two children, once served six years in Joliet. The story runs—Ned offers no resistance to his publisher's argument that the public has a right to know. The consequences, swift and shocking, haunt him throughout a long career, as he moves first to Chicago, where he engages in a spirited love affair that cannot, in the end, compete with the pull of the newsroom—“never lonely, especially when it was empty”—and the “subtle beauty” of the front page. Finally, as the editor of a major newspaper in post-Kennedy-era Washington, DC, Ned has reason to return to the question of privacy and its many violations—the gorgeously limned themes running through Ward Just’s elegiac and masterly new novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 24 Jun 2016 19:47:51 -0400)

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