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    Archive (chronological)


    How Waze Has Changed Driving, For Better And For Worse

    BUZZFEED - 15 OCTOBER 2014

    It was August; California was boiling with heat; and I’d mapped out a plan that would find me driving nearly 6,000 miles, mostly back and forth between grandparents in the Midwest. I was looking forward to doing so with my phone, which I could do without hesitation or equivocation, because my wife — who hates when I use electronic devices, especially near our daughter, and who in general prefers spontaneity and inefficiency — would be flying. I readied for the first leg of an epic summer: just me, a 5-year-old, and an open road to Missouri.

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    12 Jobs From My Recent Past

    GAWKER - 18 SEPTEMBER 2014

    I've never been particularly good a having a "traditional" job—a byproduct, perhaps, of a lenient upbringing, attendance at a magnet high school for the arts, my birth as an American, and then a variety of other luck and circumstance that has permitted me to be at times fickle, but more often or at least most simply stated: Unlikely to keep a job.

    This is my first month as a real college professor. I walk around a campus in Los Angeles, where there is a significant stadium and various country-club level amenities, such as four different pools, immaculate lawns, various libraries. There is apparently so much money floating around for a population of mostly 18- to 22-year-olds that I find it staggering to calculate how this all works—what kind of jobs will they get?—and then I remember: This is a college, and the core point of attendance is for the young to learn, and I am among the adults charged with doing some of that teaching. I have learned some things. These are my experiences so far.

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    On Maleness and Deep Springs College


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


    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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    You're Not From Here


    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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    Book Notes - Nathan Deuel "Friday Was the Bomb"


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


    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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    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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    What are you reading now? 


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


    “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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    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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    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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    Reading These 5 Writers Will Make You a Better Person 


    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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    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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    Nathan Deuel: The TNB Self-Interview


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



    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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    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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    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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