Thursday, 26 July 2012

WAR-Net conference and other news

Having set up this blog in a fit of over-confidence in May, I've since become rather neglectful, but that's soon to change.  For now, though, some snippets of news and points of interest.  First, WAR-Net, an excellent research group connected to Birkbeck focussing on war and representation, and headed by Gill Plain and Kate McLoughlin, whose excellent study Authoring War comes highly recommended, will be running a one-day conference in Oxford in November.  Titled 'War and Life-Writing', it looks to be an excellent gathering of fellow bods in the field of war literature / studies; the remit, too, looks broad enough to allow for a variety of approaches without sacrificing clarity and coherence.    

Here's a very good article by Matt Gallagher - author of Kaboom, a memoir of the war in Iraq that started life as a blog - on why there's yet to be a world class novel on the war on terror (from June of last year, but in my defence I only just read it).  Its subject makes it the perfect compliment to Geoff Dyer's piece on the rise of non-fiction and long-form journalism on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, originally published in the Guardian, but appearing again in slightly altered form in Dyer's essay collection Working the Room.  The two articles compliment each other very well: Gallagher's great on the details and the raw facts of commerce as they relate to the rise and fall of a genre's popularity (in very crude terms, readers of fiction are mostly women, readers of war literature are mostly men, so at the point of intersection - war fiction, natch - publishers aren't willing to take a risk on a new novel of conflict, regardless of quality), whilst Dyer's in more of a declarative mood, his take on the subject reading as a kind of genteel footnote to David Shield's death-of-the-novel Jeremiad, Reality Hunger.  Both essays, I think, make the mistake of diagnosing only an absence of 'literarary' fiction; it's likely that genre fiction might be in rude health in regards to its responses to Iraq and Afghanistan.  (Looking to cinema for a parallel, arguably the most telling examination of America's post-9/11 demons is to be found in Christopher Nolan's Batman reboots, with 'serious' films tackling the same subjects failing to make the same impact.  Perhaps a comparable situation might be discerned in printed fiction?  I don't know the field well enough, unfortunately: if any readers can recommend any good contemporary war novels, please do so in the comments.)

Oh, and finally, do check out Caribou, Roy Scranton's engaging and exacting (mostly) war literature blog.  It's well worth your time.      


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