Francine Prose has an idiosyncratic theory that the Hindu god Ganesh is a vital part of her writing process. In a VQR essay, she explains that her portrait of the deity (which she purchased forty years ago at a bazaar in Mumbai) gives her a kind of confidence that goes beyond superstition. As support for this belief, she points out that Ganesh is known in some quarters as “the writer’s god.”
Chris Rose laments the erosion of his former employer, New Orleans’s Times-Picayune, in the pages of Oxford American’s New South Journalism issue. Meanwhile, James Pogue discusses the art of fact-checking, which he says “has recently become a voguish topic among the New Yorker-reading and NPR-listening set.” This is of course to say nothing of the London Review of Books-reading set across the pond as well, much less the Onion-reading set located far and wide.
What can we make of the fact that members of the Guantánamo Bay medical staff have adopted Shakespearean names in “an attempt to avoid being held liable for any mistreatment of detainees?” Globe Theatre artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and Guantánamo detainees lawyer Clive Stafford Smith ponder the question.
“All war literature, across the centuries, bears witness to certain eternal truths: the death and chaos encountered, minute by minute; the bonds of love and loyalty among soldiers; the bad dreams and worse anxieties that afflict many of those lucky enough to return home.” In an omnibus review for The New York Times Michiko Kakutani looks at the fiction and journalism being written about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including recent Year in Reading alum and National Book Award winner Phil Klay‘s Redeployment and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War, “the one book that most fluently and kaleidoscopically captures both the micro and the macro of Iraq.” She also wonders, and attempts to explain, “why has there been no big, symphonic Iraq or Afghanistan novel?”
When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.