Very sad news about the death of Ward Just. He died yesterday. His reporting in Vietnam for the Washington Post was hugely admired. But then he gave up journalism to write novels that were always told against the backdrop of history and politics. He created multi-dimensional characters and wrote so insightfully and empathetically about their lives and conflicts. He wasn’t a page turner but a page marker.
I got to know Ward Just thanks to my old pal Jim Bittermann who was a very close friend of his and spent a lot of time with him when Just lived in Paris. Jim knew what a devoted Just reader I was and arranged for me to meet him over dinner, not in some picturesque Paris bistro but at Café Micky at Euro Disney after an outing with daughter Tess. I recall being anxious about meeting someone whose books had given me such enormous pleasure but Just was charming and put me at ease. I also had the privilege of visiting him at his home at Martha’s Vineyard
Here’s what he wrote in one of his final novels The Eastern Shore: “ The reporter sought coherence but there was no coherence. Instead there was whirl. Whirl ruled. And the facts fell willy nilly from an overburdened tree, yet habitually a few facts short…” Ward Just was 84.