I spent the better part of Saturday with three talented authors of contemporary war fiction. In the afternoon, I viewed the War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath at the Brooklyn Museum in the company of Roy Scranton and Phil Klay. Scranton, a US Army Iraq vet, is the editor of Fire and Forget, the landmark anthology of Iraq and Afghanistan war short fiction that I’ve written about several times in this blog. Scranton contributes a story to his own collection, and he’s working on a novel, but the drift of his thought goes well beyond war literature. Below are links to two wildly creative and intellectually provocative essays he’s recently published in the New York Times and on an online site called The Appendix:
Klay, a USMC Iraq vet, contributed a story to Fire and Forget and served as a guide (and perhaps an inspiration) to Roxana Robinson as she wrote Sparta. Klay’s collection of short stories Redeployment will be released next year by Penguin. I’ve read an advanced copy and greatly enjoyed it–if you are wondering what new subjects and perspectives are possible in war lit, you will, too.
Joining us later was Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, the author of The Watch, a novel about an Army unit on a small combat outpost in Afghanistan. I somehow overlooked The Watch upon its release last year, and subsequently experienced an “OMG-what-have-I-missed” moment when I finally read it a couple of weeks ago. I’ll have plenty to say about The Watch in future posts, but here will only report that it combines military realism with literary skill and imagination to a high degree.
Together, we talked into the night and made plans for a panel presentation Scranton has organized for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Seattle next February. Next spring, I’ll also be speaking on war literature at the American Comparative Literature Association conference in New York City in March and the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Harrisburg, PA, in April. Join me at any of them if you can, and let all conversations continue.