"It would take a god to tell the tale," wrote Homer. But the world’s first war poet belied his own claim and beginning a tradition of lyrical exposé that brings muddy conflict into luminous prose and verse.
Of special value in this tradition is the soldier-author and the first-hand witness to the experience of war. Now in our third decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s time to ask: What characterizes this new war literature? What elements of voice, structure, and style recur across the poetry, memoir, and fiction of veteran writers? How does this speak to the way that a writer’s psyche is shaped by war, and what is the bridge between life on the homefront and life on the front line?
Black Mountain Institute welcomes you to a conversation on these questions featuring four astonishing writers. Moderator George Packer is a journalist, author, and playwright, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a National Book Award winner for nonfiction. He has written extensively about war and foreign policy, including in The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Brian Turner is an award-winning poet, essayist, and author of the acclaimed memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country -- a "brilliant and beautiful" book, says Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried. "It surely ranks with the best war memoirs I've ever encountered -- a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature." Siobhan Fallon is a fiction writer whose You Know When the Men Are Gone explores the emotional toll, and crucial role, of the military spouses left behind. Her debut of linked stories was greeted with superb literary reviews and named the Best Book of 2011 by Janet Maslin of the New York Times. US Marine Corps Veteran Phil Klay won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for his collection of short stories, Redeployment. In his acceptance speech, Klay said "I can’t think of a more important conversation to be having.