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    Archive (chronological)

    Wednesday
    Sep032014

    On Maleness and Deep Springs College

    HARPER'S - 3 SEPTEMBER 2014

    Deep Springs College has been around for almost a hundred years. In 1917, a crew of about a dozen students, mostly ruddy young things from back east, were brought to a remote desert basin halfway between Yosemite and Death Valley by an entrepreneur and educator named L. L. Nunn. His idea was to form “whole men” — and only men, it being Nunn’s contention that a single-sex institution was the ideal way to achieve his goals — who would be as comfortable at a desk as in the field. He offered the boys two free years of education in exchange for a pledge to devote their lives to serving humanity. The first group built the dormitory by hand.

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    Thursday
    Aug072014

    That Time I Took the Bus and Everything Was Great

    GAWKER - 7 AUGUST 2014

    The other night, I was going to the launch party for my new book, but the hosting bookstore happened to be on the other side of town, in Los Feliz, while I meanwhile was a new resident of Venice, an hour's drive away—or more in mid-afternoon traffic—so I considered my options.

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    Friday
    Jul182014

    In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 18 JULY 2014

    It's winter 2011, and I am living in Istanbul. I wander old streets in Turkey's cultural capital, past thousand-year-old mosques that were once churches, trying to understand the place that has become my home. Streets day and night are thronged by young Turks, flush from a thriving economy, in a country emerging as a new power 100 years after the Ottoman Empire fell apart. Across a swath of 20 or so countries, from Morocco to Iran, the area we think of as the Middle East seems tense but quiet.

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    Thursday
    Jul032014

    You're Not From Here

    BROWN ALUMNI MAGAZINE - JULY/AUG 2014

    I still hadn’t fully processed our move to Venice, California, when I came face to face with the grizzled guy on our block who rides around on the yellow scooter. “You grow up here?” he asked.

    I hadn’t. For the last half decade, I’d lived in the Middle East with my daughter and wife, Kelly, a foreign correspondent. No one during those years ever asked where I’d grown up. Because of wars and revolution and worse, everything always felt intense and exciting. There were more important things to tend to than asking questions about the origins of a stranger like me. Now, exhausted from all the bombs and barricades in Lebanon, we were back in the States.

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    Sunday
    Jun082014

    Book Notes - Nathan Deuel "Friday Was the Bomb"

    LARGE-HEARTED BOY - 8 JUNE 2014

    After the big blast in Beirut, when the country's top intelligence chief was killed, I started a playlist. By this point, we'd lived in the Middle East for nearly half a decade. Our daughter had been born in Riyadh, we'd traveled to Yemen, where the little girl caught measles, and when my wife took a posting in Baghdad, I moved to Istanbul, where Loretta learned how to walk as her mom covered the "end" of a war. Then, in the fall of 2011, we moved to Lebanon, where everything was supposed to be different. There were mountains and beaches and great wine and a solid crew of fellow foreign correspondents, many of them with children. We allowed ourselves to relax, to unpack our books, set up a stereo, light some candles, and consider a dinner party. Then there was a seven-hour shoot-out just down the block from our house, followed not long after by a massive car bomb.

    Scrolling through all the playlists I've made over the years, I can retrace the path:

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    Tuesday
    Jun032014

    Nathan Deuel was a new father whose wife covered war in Iraq and Syria

    THE OREGONIAN - 3 JUNE 2014

    Nathan Deuel, a writer and editor in New York, moved to Saudi Arabia in 2008 with his wife, Kelly McEvers, who works as a correspondent for National Public Radio. The couple had a daughter a year later, and McEvers' career took off with assignments in Iraq and Syria. Deuel wrote about their lives and life in the Middle East in a series of essays that have been published in a book, "Friday Was the Bomb." Deuel answered a few questions by email:

    How did you and your wife find yourselves in the Middle East? Where did you live, and what jobs did you have?

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    Monday
    Jun022014

    Land of Milk and Money

    GUERNICA - 2 JUNE 2014

    It’s rush hour on a Friday, and I’m driving through San Jose traffic during the Bay Area’s second big Web boom. I’m surrounded by Google buses, eBay shuttles, BMWs, Audis, and Teslas—the daily northerly conveyance of tens of thousands from Silicon Valley back to San Francisco, our new dork overlords on the move, inching up the fright-scape that is Highway 101. Though the story of tech and the Bay Area is more complicated than wealth and movement and also simpler and older than anything that requires tech at all.

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    Sunday
    Jun012014

    What are you reading now? 

    THE MIAMI HERALD - 1 JUNE 2014

    Having lived in Turkey, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, where our daughter was born, my wife and I are back in the U.S., relearning how to be Americans. What matters? Who are we? Leslie Jamison offers mixed answers in her dazzling essay book, The Empathy Exams. As a Miami native, I like the direction of a good South Florida tale; love is the secret in Roxane Gay's novel Untamed State, which is as haunting in Haiti as when the action moves to Miami-Dade County.

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    Monday
    May262014

    The Tender Underbelly of Soldiers: Phil Klay’s Lives During Wartime

    LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS - 26 MAY 2014

    “WE SHOT DOGS,” writes Phil Klay in Redeployment, a collection of 12 stories about the war in Iraq. “Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.”

    That ball-busting first paragraph shows the author to be a man of great compassion and creativity, with an ear for the voices of hurt men. A former Marine, Klay is very much in the process of figuring out what coming home might really mean for the two and a half million American service men and women who have served since 9/11. 

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    Thursday
    May222014

    Welcome to Venice Beach 

    TROP - 21 MAY 2014

    Monday morning, I’m pulling a trailer containing a four-year-old girl, en route to preschool, both of us coming off a half-decade in the Middle East, and I’m feeling a little shaky about how things are going, wondering how it is I should think about our new life in Los Angeles. I’ve just turned down a tenure-track job offer, an essay collection (not mine) is taking the world by storm, and as ever it’s never particularly easy to find the time to write—nor is it clear why one should bother. There’s a house to work on and a kid who needs raising and a marriage to maintain and yet, that compulsion, every day: To sit down and type.

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    Wednesday
    May212014

    The Cantina Scene 

    THE MORNING NEWS - 20 MAY 2014

    It was a midsummer night a few weeks after I’d left the Middle East for the American Midwest. My wife, Kelly, and I had spent five years in some of the world’s toughest corners—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon—as she covered the news, and now we were at last bringing our four-year-old daughter home. (Whatever that meant.)

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    Saturday
    May172014

    Reading These 5 Writers Will Make You a Better Person 

    HUFFINGTON POST - 16 MAY 2014

    Peter Matthiessen

    In Saudi Arabia, I was still trying to make sense of the insane thing I'd done in America. Which was to quit a perfectly good job at Rolling Stone, pack a bag, and walk from New York City to New Orleans. My wife and I had given that Louisiana city a try, staying for a few months in a rambling shotgun house by the race track, drinking and eating and walking around, but in the end it had made sense, I suppose, to move to Riyadh, capital of the world's most Islamic country, itself a custodian of the religion's two holiest sites. 10 thousand miles from anything I knew well, I'd wander the dirt paths of the sprawling compound we called home, dark and windy on the city's western edge, and I felt as disconnected as I ever had been before. I was trying to be a good husband. And an American. And soon enough, I'd be a dad.

    The book that resonated with me most then was Snow Leopard, the late Peter Matthiessen legendary account of trekking through the Himalayas to find the reclusive cat. More than a record of physical hardship, the book is a long mediation on pain and suffering and perseverance. Why do we do hard things? It's not just about the steps he takes through the snow, but about all the moves he's made in his life up to that point -- the choices big and small that found him alone, away from his children and with a dying wife, trekking in search of something that didn't want to be found. The copy I had was a friend's, illegally photocopied in some stall in Nepal. The cover was fraying but the writing inside was gorgeous, subtle, and much better than anything I could do. I still haven't written about that walk to New Orleans. But when I do, a copy of that book will be on my shelf.

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    Friday
    May162014

    PEOPLE LIKE US 

    THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN - 15 MAY 2014

    On our leafy terrace in Lebanon, beside the civil war in Syria, my wife Kelly and I were entertaining an old friend, the new Beirut bureau chief for a major news organization. This woman was moving to town to cover the battle and was scouting houses before she brought her husband and young children. I swirled a large glass of wine, a father myself, and recounted how just a few weeks earlier, a massive, seven-hour shootout had raged just below our balcony, shell-casings bouncing off the asphalt. How I had cowered in our bedroom, checking periodically to ensure our three-year-old daughter was still asleep, listening as thousands of additional rounds of machine gun fire bounced off the walls outside. How Lebanese soldiers arrived in camouflaged armored personnel carriers, and how seven or eight grenades exploded when the bad guys down the block determined that they would fight to the death. How, instead of cowering beside me, my wife Kelly had put down her wine glass, grabbed a notebook and a flak jacket, and walked off into the night.

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    Friday
    May162014

    Nathan Deuel: The TNB Self-Interview

    THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN - 15 MAY 2014

    Was it really that bad?

    Fuck off.

    Y’know, being a dad…wife in the war, Middle East, etc.

    It was a fairly constant struggle for me: The fact that it wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, many times—a lot of the time—it was quite excellent. I can’t really adequately describe what it’s like to get rip-roaring drunk by yourself, as the bats fly overhead, wife in Baghdad, with the sound of the call to prayer ringing out over Istanbul, the moon coming up, and you light an illicit cigarette and the hum of the earth is loud and…A grilled fish lunch at an old cantina in a secluded cove north of Beirut, with the table literally in the water, catching up with an old friend from Riyadh, the waves licking up over the table cloth, sea froth kissing the food with salt water, cold bottles of beer…Or to have Christmas in Erbil, in northern Iraq, the odd situation of your wife agreeing to watch the kid while you put on a suit that doesn’t quite fit, so you can get in a taxi and try to track down Christians who fled Baghdad, in the wake of a bombing at a church that killed dozens, to find a woman who will speak to you, in the middle of the street, on Christmas day, with the taxi idling, getting a good enough quote to go back to the house, so you can file a story, so you can sing “Jingle Bells” and squint in the su

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    Wednesday
    May142014

    WITHOUT CHIEF OR TRIBE: AN EXCERPT FROM 'FRIDAY WAS THE BOMB'

    VICE - 13 MAY 2014

    I was having lunch at the swan near Hyde Park and some son of a bitch took my bag with all my documents, the email began. It was June of 2009 and I was sitting at a desk in Riyadh. Assuming this was spam, I was about to press delete, when something made me reconsider.

    Outside, it was summer in Saudi Arabia, where temperatures could exceed one hundred and thirty degrees. My wife Kelly and I had lived in the country for nearly a year. We’d spent much of our lives in foreign countries or in strange corners of North America. We’d met in Cambodia, spent years in Southeast Asia, got to know Russia and the former Soviet Union, and I proposed to her on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. This time, however, the Middle East in general seemed a little beyond my talent set. Maybe it was the heat making me feel weak? By this time of year everyone was spending entire days indoors, emerging only to drive air-conditioned cars, in which metal could be so hot it might burn your skin. Streets buckled, the wind howled in from the desert, and meanwhile booze was still illegal, women were forbidden from consorting with men they weren’t related to, and it was hard to imagine why anyone would ever choose to settle here. Considering all this, we—the swashbuckling couple who had never shied away from doing something insane—were about to bring a new baby into the world.

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    Tuesday
    May132014

    Nathan Deuel on 'Friday was the Bomb,' his Middle East memoir

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 12 MAY 2014

    BY JASMINE ELIST

    Over the last decade, hundreds of war memoirs have been written by soldiers and journalists who have experienced the war in the Middle East from the front lines. However, in “Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East” (Dzanc, $14.95 paper), Nathan Deuel recounts his time in the Middle East between 2008 and 2013 from a different angle: the sidelines.

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    Wednesday
    May072014

    FRIDAY WAS THE BOMB: AN INTERVIEW WITH ESSAYIST, JOURNALIST AND DEBUT NONFICTION WRITER NATHAN DEUEL

    THE WRITER'S JOB - 7 MAY 2014

    The product of several years’ worth of hard living in the Middle East, Nathan Deuel’s debut collection of essays, Friday Was the Bomb, was just published this week from Disquiet, a division of indie powerhouse Dzanc. Deuel’s essays have been appearing all over the web and in print media for years (New York Times Magazine, Harper's, GQ, The New York TimesThe New Republic, Financial Times, The Paris Review). I spoke to him about the circumstances in which he wrote and lived the stories in this book, and the collection’s charmed (but deserved!) path to publication.

    Jake Zucker: I think the most ominous single line in the collection is from the first chapter/essay: “In the beginning, Iraq had seemed like the center of the universe.” Was it always the center of your writing universe? You write about your experience editing content about the War in Iraq, but was it inevitable that you’d personally write about it too, in some way?

    Nathan Deuel: 9/11 completely defined my life as an adult. Prior to that, there was this ambient hunger for the kind of urgency and import that a previous generation had because of Vietnam, and World War II before that, and the Depression before that, etc. (The Civil Rights Movement is and was also very worthy but was more of a domestic cause to rally around.) With 9/11, my generation very quickly was handed an organizing principle, whether we liked it or not.

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    Tuesday
    May062014

    THE RUMPUS INTERVIEW WITH NATHAN DEUEL

    THE RUMPUS - 6 MAY 2014

    Nathan Deuel isn’t breaking big stories in Friday Was the Bomb, his debut essay collection about the five years he spent in the Middle East. He’s not investigating global problems or charting the aftermath of conflict. Instead, he writes about access and everyday life, and how we make lives for ourselves when we must rationalize our roles in places we don’t fully understand or belong.

    Deuel moved to Saudi Arabia in 2008 with his wife, Kelly McEvers, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent. Their daughter was born in Riyadh a year later, and as McEvers began spending long stretches of time in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, Deuel found himself grappling with his new role as father in Riyadh, and later in Beirut.

    We spoke recently about the complications of work and family far from home, literature’s contemporary representations of the Middle East, and how essays function in singular and collective forms.

    ***

    The Rumpus: In the essay “Homeland in My Homeland,” you write about the popular Showtime program Homeland and its rendering of Beirut, where you were living at the time. Can you talk more about popular culture representations of conflicts in the Middle East? Do you think they’re being represented fairly, by news and entertainment outlets?

    Nathan Deuel: Gosh, who does a good job representing the far away? Living in Jakarta back in the day, with my wife Kelly, we lived in the slums in the master bedroom of a house owned by an Islamic scholar, which he maintained for his second wife. It was a weird scene. We cooked over a stove in an alley, sharing a communal thing of rice with the wife and her sister, stored in a glass jar in which mice cavorted. The second wife, displaced by us when we began renting that room, would emerge early each morning from her slightly smaller bedroom, and she’d begin these long mournful karaoke covers of Air Supply. We’d hardly slept, because a train ran at all hours a few feet from our bedroom and beside the tracks was an open-air brothel. To get around the city, I mostly walked, sticking to footpaths along the muddy rivers—a city where you either had $300 million or $300. We had the latter. It was always so bittersweet, when I’d arrived at the luxury mall, spending dollars we didn’t really have on cheese and beer, and it was hard to square all I’d seen and was living with and where I had come from and what I hoped one day to accomplish against that outdoor brothel, the forest of trees beside the river where prostitutes would tack up hand mirrors to the bark, which served as their little make-up stations, tiny combs and brushes stuffed into the crooks of trees.

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    Monday
    May052014

    Bombs Over Sad Dad: IMing with Nathan Deuel

    AMAZON.COM/OMNIVORACIOUS - 5 MAY 2014

    If parenting is the hardest job in the world, imagine doing it in a place of civil unrest. Nathan Deuel's book, Friday Was the Bomb, spans the five years he and his daughter Loretta spent in Turkey and Lebanon as Deuel's wife, an NPR foreign correspondent, reported from Baghdad and Syria. As much asFriday is about living in the Middle East, it's also a moving autobiographical tale of isolation and fatherhood. Here, Deuel has penned a book about fragility with the robustness of an empathetic essayist and the careful eye of a seasoned journalist.

    I spoke with Deuel over Gchat about his time abroad, raising his daughter Loretta, the wonders of the internet, and the show Homeland.


    Kevin Nguyen: Nathan, what's your book about? Can you describe it in IMs?

    Nathan Deuel: It's about moving to the Middle East in 2008 with my wife, who was a stringer for NPR. We scored visas to Saudi Arabia, one of the least understood and most mysterious countries in the world. We struggled to make a life there and to understand it and to make friends, and then we had a baby there, too.

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    Thursday
    May012014

    6 Books That Helped Nathan Deuel Make Sense of War and Exile 

    FLAVORWIRE - 15 MAY 2014

    BY JASON DIAMOND

    Since he does a much better job explaining it than we would, we’ll just preface his piece by saying that Nathan Deuel’s Friday Was the Bomb is one of the most fascinating accounts we’ve read of an American in the Middle East during the last tumultuous decade. During his time abroad, Deuel not only wrote about his experiences, but also did a lot of reading. Below, the author tells us, in his own words, about the books that helped him make meaning out of his years of exile.

    In December 2011, I moved to Beirut with my wife — a foreign correspondent — and our two year-old daughter. We were coming off a few hard years, first in Riyadh, the fearsome capital of Saudi Arabia, where we’d dodged the religious police and had a little girl. Then Kelly got a job in Iraq, so I moved with our diaper-clad daughter to Istanbul. Spend a few days in Turkey’s capital and I admit, it will blow your mind. Move there in the wake of your dad’s abrupt death from cancer, with your daughter — while your wife dodges mortars in Baghdad — and you might find yourself, as I did, smothered as much by the demands of fatherhood as by an impenetrable language, a society trending toward the darker sides of nationalism, and a flood of new money.

    So after three years, when we got the go-ahead to move to beautiful, broken Beirut — with its beaches and wine and convivial crew of fellow correspondents, many of whom had children — it felt like everything was coming together. We rented an airy, light-filled apartment, bought a bunch of plants, and thought about hosting a party. But the uprising in neighboring Syria was turning into all-out war.

    Kelly worked long hours and we did our best but as friends or colleagues died and a car bomb exploded and then a seven-hour shoot-out rocked and rolled right outside our bedroom windows, I began to lose focus. What was the point? How to be a parent beside this? A husband? What about the fact we were Americans?

    Seeking guidance, or at least the half-shine of potential answers, I turned to books. From Graham Greene to Shiva Naipaul, from Leigh Newman to Nick Flynn, I found various blueprints for how to think about the horror around me and how to turn a time of often indescribable cruelty into something meaningful — or at least semi-comprehensible.

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