“What I’ve found is that a lot of soldiers are surprisingly apolitical. Their reality is, ‘Today I’m going to leave the gate for twelve hours, and I’m going to make it back to the dining facility by sundown with the arms and legs of me and my buddies intact.’ So you say, ‘Well, what about the Project for the New American Century and the preexisting agenda blah blah blah?’ They go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, but I have to get through today.’ So their reality is not a political reality as much as it’s, ‘If I’m driving by this piece of garbage, will it blow up?'” Revisit this old interview with Henry Rollins over at Guernica Magazine, which manages the nearly impossible: to be both level-headed and political.
Did our interview with Hilary Mantel yesterday pique your interest in her latest book? The Times has an excerpt you can read. Elsewhere, Damian Barr (who conducted the interview) pens a response to Lord Bell, who recently suggested that Scotland Yard should investigate Mantel for criminal intent.
Does a writer make the city or does the city make the writer? At Grantland, Michael Weinreb discusses why Elmore Leonard is the ultimate Motor City writer and discovers Leonard’s Detroit. “Without his books, the city would still have suffered the same hellish decline. But because of him, that suffering was rendered into an art form all its own.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris writing against Detroit’s ruin porn reputation.
New York Times travel editor Monica Drake recounts visiting Antigua after reading Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place—a sharp critique of tourism and the colonialist narrative around the island. As she puts it, “For all the drama of its history, […] the beauty of the place, the very thing that bewitches its tourists, renders it a time capsule to its residents.”
Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea — as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers — has little to no basis in reality?
New this week: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood; Gold, Fame, Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins; Vertigo by Joanna Walsh; Syllabus of Errors by Troy Jollimore; The Good Story by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz; I Must Be Living Twice by Eileen Myles; and The Complete Works of Primo Levi. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.