Archive | June, 2014

Weekly Round-Up: Summer Reading List

AMERICA AFTER 9-11 flyer

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Summer Reading List” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

The first week of summer is in the books, and it’s time to share my summer reading list. Before I get too far along, here’s my opportunity to remind you about today’s event, which is detailed in the flyer above.

For me, once summer has finally arrived, I like to mark my long summer days by the books I complete. Whether I’m headed to the beach or the mountains, I keep a few good books stashed in a bag or stacked on the nightstand. Here are a few selections from my own summer reading list that will be keeping me busy until autumn.

  1. Fourth of July Creek: A Novel, Smith Henderson
  2. Wynne’s War, Aaron Gwyn
  3. Fives and Twenty-Fives, Michael Pitre
  4. No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes, Anand Gopal
  5. Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order, Charles Hill
  6. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, Kai Bird
  7. Preparation for the Next Life, Atticus Lish
  8. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
  9. Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, Ron Capps
  10. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, Steve Coll
  11. To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan, Nicholas Schmidle
  12. The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, Carlotta Gall
  13. The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, Mark Mazzetti
  14. My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir, Brian Turner

Here we go.

  1. Iraq has been in the news quite a bit over the last few weeks. As we have all heard, and depending on who was talking at the time, there’s much blame to be laid at the feet of both administrations, the Iraqi government, and the increasingly unstable security situation throughout the entire Middle East region. I’ll leave talk of victory and/or defeat to the historians, and instead posit that Brian Caster, Phil Klay and Elliot Ackerman have had some rather thoughtful things to say about it all in outlets such as NewsweekNew York Times, and The New Yorker. Beyond smart vet commentary, no one gets it more right than Dexter Filkins, who has had some really good short pieces for The New Yorker over the last couple of weeks, along with a longer piece he wrote a few months back about Iraq.
  2. My heart nearly stopped when I saw that Marilynne Robison’s upcoming novel, Lila, is excerpted on the FSG blog. If you are anything of a super-fan like me, you will read the excerpt multiple times hoping that somehow the brief passage would magically turn itself into the book.
  3. If you were wondering what Gordon Lish is up to these days, you should read this interesting Newsweek profile of the once iconic literary editor to several great short story writers.
  4. For-profit colleges have been ripping off veterans – and the US government – for years. Despite this, and despite the fact that VSOs and elected officials have turned a blind eye, The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Daily Beast have teamed up to take a comprehensive look at how these school are preying on student veterans and straddling vets with worthless college degrees and large amounts of debt. Also, if you are a vet who used your GI Bill, The Center for Investigative Reporting wants to hear from you.
  5. There are times when a writer gets it right; there are times when a writer gets it wrong. And unfortunately for Dave Eggers, he gets it totally wrong in his new book. Read Phil Klay’s super-smart New York Times Sunday Book Review of what “has gone terribly wrong” in Eggers’s new novel.
  6. War on the Rocks posted their summer reading list. After you have read through that, you should then check out Peter Munson’s commentary on Iraq.
  7. This article in The Guardian on ghost writing for powerful politicians and non-disclosure agreements makes the 2010 Roman Polanski film, The Ghostwriter, all the more unsettling.

Have a great week.

–Brandon

Weekly Round-Up: “Class Dismissed” Edition

d day

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Class Dismissed” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Summer has arrived in Maine. Lobsters, black flies, swaths and rolls of freshly burnt flesh. The state bird is the black-capped chickadee, but it should be a wiry guy with a black-capped chickadee tattoo on his prematurely wrinkled bicep, smoking a Red at the beach.

‘Tis the season for home improvements. Weedwhackers, window boxes, rubbing rust off the barbecue. Last week I built a desk. Well, I bought two paint splattered sawhorses at a yard sale and a door at the Habitat for Humanity store. My laptop power cord and a lamp’s wire snake through the hole where the doorknob should go.

Recent reading includes Edward St. Aubyn’s new novel, Lost for Words, a satirical look at literary society. The release has been marked by significant media attention, including a profile in The New Yorker and a Fresh Air interview. The Patrick Melrose series, Aubyn’s cycle of five autobiographical novels, has been my go-to recommendation for the past year or so. I describe it as “evil Wodehouse.” Reductive, but it usually piques an interest. Aubyn’s sentences are chewy. The language is elegant and sharp, like the Dowager Countess if the Dowager Countess was a former heroin addict.

Americans don’t like to write about class, even after the economic upheaval of ’08 and the subsequent lopsided recovery. It can be jarring and off-putting to encounter a writer who does tackle this subject matter and in a way that doesn’t always garner sympathy.

Here’s to a summer of writing bouts marked by exorcised personal and societal demons.

Your seven links:

1. Eliot Ackerman on Bowe Bergdahl for The New Republic.

2. Finishing a story? A poem? A collection? Here are a few places to submit.

3. This week the nation was reminded of the inspiring heroics and selfless acts of those who landed in Normandy 70 years ago. Here is video of General Eisenhower’s D-Day message.

4. The expansive William T. Vollman on recent war fiction.

5. Ernest Hemingway’s son spent a good chunk of his turbulent life living in a Missoula, MO motel.

6. What would you pay for a postcard from David Foster Wallace?

7. A graphic review of Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams in The Daily Beast.

Have a great week.

-Mike

Weekly Round-Up: Danger Close: America after 9/11

Photo Credit: ACME Studio

Photo Credit: ACME Studio

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Danger Close” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

We are excited to invite you to our first event of the summer: “Danger Close: America after 9/11,” a conversation between writers on how 9/11 and the years that followed have shaped their lives and writing. The event will begin at 3 PM on June 29th at ACME Studio, 63 N. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets will be available online this week. If you can’t make it to the event, please consider purchasing a ticket for somebody who can, or you can make a donation!

Masha Hamilton, Phil Klay, and Max Neely-Cohen will join me in conversation. The discussion will focus on how the domestic and international policies during the Global War on Terror uniquely impacted the way we consume media, understand war, and communicate those experiences. The discussion will also place a particular emphasis on the wartime experience of journalists, contractors, civilians, government officials, and veterans.

“Danger Close: America after 9/11” is part of an ongoing reading and discussion series that includes both veterans and civilians whose work engages with war and its aftermath.

Masha Hamilton

Masha Hamilton is the author of five acclaimed novels, most recently What Changes Everything and 31 Hours. In October 2013, she finished 16 months working in Afghanistan as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy. She is currently working as Communications Director for Concern Worldwide. She also founded two world literacy projects, the Camel Book Drive and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. She began her career as a journalist, working in Maine, Indiana and New York City before being sent by the Associated Press to the Middle East, where she was news editor for five years, including the period of the first intefadeh, and then moving to Moscow, where she worked for five years during the collapse of Communism. She also reported from Kenya in 2006, and from Afghanistan in 2004 and 2008.

Phil Klay

Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. His debut collection Redeployment was published in 2014 to wide critical acclaim.

Max Neely-Cohen

Maxwell Neely-Cohen’s debut novel Echo of the Boom is a narrative investigation into coming of age in the shadow of 9/11 and the War On Terror. He is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where he studied military history and theory. You can find his shorter work at The New Inquiry, The Millions, and This Recording. Before his writing career he worked as a defense analyst and consultant for NGOs, defense contractors, and private companies. He lives in New York City.

Brandon Willitts, Moderator

Brandon Willitts is Executive Director and Co-founder of Words After War. Brandon joined the U.S. Navy after 9/11, where he served as an intelligence analyst on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan between 2004 and 2005. In addition to his responsibilities with Words After War, Brandon works in the financial industry where he supports the military and veterans initiatives and communication strategy for a large financial firm. He is graduate of Marlboro College, and lives on New York City’s Upper West Side.

Join us on 6/29 at the one-of-a-kind ACME Studio for cold drinks and a fantastic discussion!

Here we go.

  1. Former Prisoner of War Bowe Berghdal is coming home. It’ll be a long time before we know, if we ever do, the full story of what happened during the prisoner exchange as well as the details around what led Berghdal to walk off his base. In Time Magazine, Alex Horton and Ronn Capps were interviewed and gave some much needed context to Berghdal’s release. Also, you should read Michael Hasting’s article from 2012 for Rolling Stone.
  2. I have stayed quiet on the VA scandal, but I’ll say this: All partisan politics aside, I believe America lost a great leader in Shinseki. And, in my opinion, I believe those in the VSO community, especially those who called for his resignation, are neither qualified to run the VA nor are they fully aware of the complexity and bureaucracy of the VA. Shinseki’s resignation proved, at least to me, to be another slight against a Vietnam generation that gave far more than they have ever received. It was a sad day for vets. Jake Siegel produced some smart coverage of the scandal for The Daily Beast.
  3. Check out the first 1000 words of Max Neely-Cohen’s Echo of the Boom.
  4. If the heat and humidity get you down this summer, hop on a quick flight to Syria. The New Republic reports that despite its civil war, the Syrian government is launching a tourism campaign (yes, seriously).
  5. The New Yorker has been publishing some rather fascinating espionage reportage as of late. Check out how the F.B.I. managed to crack a Chinese spy ring.
  6. The Los Angeles Times has the skinny on the growing rift between Amazon and book publisher Hachette. Convenience be damned, I am beginning to think twice about where I buy my books, even if it’s not always the lowest price point.
  7. For The New York Times, Colum McCann writes about the fragile nature of peace in Northern Ireland.

Have a good week.

–Brandon