A Spy in the House of Love

In the marvelous Mortals, Norman Rush's first novel in 12 years, a CIA agent battles a midlife crisis

Norman Rush is something of an oddity in the world of American letters, a world that sometimes seems to be populated solely by wunderkinder and eminences grises. Born in 1933, Rush worked as a teacher and a rare-books dealer and did a stint with the Peace Corps in Africa before he finally published his first novel, Mating, in 1991. It promptly won the National Book Award. Rush then resumed his silence (and maintained his 1.000 batting average). Now, 12 years later, we have the remarkable Mortals (Knopf; 715 pages), which gives us the late-blooming Rush as challenging and surprising and uncompromising...

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