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Posts Tagged ‘James Fenton’

The Art of War Reporting: An Interview with Janine di Giovanni

May 2, 2016 | by

Photo: Rannjan Joawn

I met the war reporter Janine di Giovanni more than a decade ago, when I was a new expatriate in Paris. Her bohemian apartment, half a block from the Tuilerie Gardens, was filled with journalists, writers, newspaper editors, and members of NGOs from places I had only read about. On the table were large bowls of pasta drenched in butter and truffles—she’s from a large Italian American family from New Jersey—and an inviting assortment of open bottles of red wine. Our children, both a year old, became best friends in the way only children can, and remain so to this day. Janine remains the only person I know who’s canceled a playdate with the excuse that she had “to go to Syria on Thursday.”

Known for her wrenching and immediate dispatches from Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and Syria for the London Times, Janine took an unusual road to war reporting. She went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for fiction and completed a master’s degrees in comparative literature at the University of London. Her conversion to war reporting came, she says, when she saw a photograph of an Israeli soldier burying a Palestinian teen alive with a bulldozer full of sand. “It disturbed me horribly—so I went. I met a human-rights lawyer who took me to the refugee camps and said, If you have the ability to write about people who have no voice, then you have an obligation. And that was that.”

Giovanni is currently the Middle East editor of Newsweek. Her books include Ghosts by Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love; The Place at the End of the World: Essays from the Edge; Against the Stranger, about the effect of occupations during the first intifada on both Palestinians and Israelis; and The Quick and The Dead, about the siege of Sarajevo. Her latest, The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria, is out this week. I spoke with her reporter-style by Skype—I reached her in Paris, where she still lives. 

The stories you tell are steeped in tragedy—the death of a child, the violent torture of a prisoner of war. How do you conceive of your reader, who is, after all, not a war reporter and isn’t used to this?

My attitude is, I hope readers are upset by this. That’s what I want to do, shock them out of their complacency. But I’m not doing it deliberately. Some reviews of my latest book would say, There’s no holds barred, she tells these bitter stories incredibly graphically. But I just told my readers what my reporting had told me. I didn’t exaggerate, I didn’t add to anything. I didn’t have to. Read More »

Introducing Our Fall Issue!

September 7, 2012 | by

We all hate to see summer end, but don’t despair: we bring you our Fall issue by way of consolation! And there’s so much to love.

James Fenton on journalism, shrimp farming, interior decoration, gardening, poetry, opera, and more:

What I had got from my teaching experience in the Midwest was a feeling for the enormous pressure on people in the poetry world to conform to an entirely negatively defined notion of poetry. It doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t have any rhythm one might detect, and it isn’t written for the ear but rather the page. It seemed de-natured. These poets had forgotten the lips and the limbs, the dance, the whole bodily element—that had been banished. The manifesto was a piece of devil-may-care. It was actually anti-Iowa rather than anti-American.

Roberto Calasso on life, film, and publishing—Italian-style:

The publisher after all is considered, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, a rather eccentric entrepreneur or impresario—a businessman in a very improbable field. But, if he is successful, then he is a good businessman. The author is the successor of the saint, everyone respects the author. So to put the two elements together is highly suspicious in a way, especially in the rather moralistic Protestant countries. In the Latin countries, less so.

Plus! Fiction by Jim Gavin, David Gordon, Ottessa Moshfegh, Peter Orner, and Sam Savage. Poetry by August Kleinzahler, George Seferis, Bernadette Mayer, Jason Zuzga, and Guillaume Apollinaire. A portfolio by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, and collages by Jess.

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What We’re Loving: Gardens, Riches, and Kidneys

June 15, 2012 | by

The classical novel exists, in large part, to teach us how to imagine money—the more than we’ll ever have, the more than we’ll ever lose. Nobody today writes more convincingly about lucre than Jonathan Dee. You glance up from The Privileges thinking, Sure, I can imagine how it would feel to be that level of mega-filthy, godalmighty rich—it’s like grasping some exotic theorem—then you dive back in to watch the Moreys make even more. (For a round-up of moneycentric novels, check out Christian Lorentzen in the new Bookforum.) —Lorin Stein

I’m not a gardener—I can hardly tell tulips from forget-me-nots—but I have many friends who are, and I’ve just come across the perfect book for them. James Fenton’s A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed is short, witty, and useful. If you were starting a flower garden from scratch, Fenton asks, what flowers would you choose to grow in it? The names themselves are a pleasure to read: the Shoo-Fly Plant (also known as the Apple of Peru), the Pheasant’s Eye, the Iceland Poppy, the Blue Pygmy. Fenton also gives sound advice: “When handling seedlings, always hold them by the leaves, not by the stem”; and, “Forcefully remind your cat about the difference between seed trays and litter boxes.” —Robyn Creswell

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The Art of Poetry, Live

May 14, 2012 | by

Photograph by Dominique Nabokov

Watch a Paris Review interview in action! Thursday, May 17, Paris Review poetry editor Robyn Creswell will interview poet James Fenton (both fellows at the Cullman Center) at the New York Public Library in what will, ultimately, become a part of our legendary Art of Poetry series.

The interview will be followed by a Q & A with audience members.

For details, visit the NYPL’s web site. We’ll see you there.

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