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    Archive (chronological)



    LA WEEKLY - 11 JUNE 2015

    After five years in the Middle East, my wife, daughter and I moved last year to Los Angeles, which turned out to have more in common with Beirut or Baghdad than I might have imagined. The specifics here were, of course, different — malnourished sea lions, homelessness, gentrification, tourism, nimbyism — but the manner by which I began to grasp them was similar. To find out more about where I lived and why it felt so insane, I decided, as I'd done many times (from Sanaa to Beirut, Baghdad to Doha), to take a long walk, in this case from Marina del Rey to Pacific Palisades.

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    LITHUB - 8 JUNE 2015

    On the 45th anniversary of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, Nathan Deuel reexamines that novel alongside her eponymous non-fiction portrait of Miami.

    I first read Miami as a junior at Brown, in a class about the Cuban-American experience. I hated growing up in South Florida, feeling as I did that the place lacked history, or in any case I had never been given an adequate guide to make its history matter as much as the older, grander history up north or across the ocean.

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    'Children of the Stone' a moving look at music's power in Palestine


     A shipping container bound for Palestine holds cargo worth half a million dollars — not military hardware or food aid but musical instruments. This is the gripping material of Sandy Tolan's moving and diligently told new book, "Children of the Stone." Whereas his 2006 book, "The Lemon Tree," told the story of Israel and Palestine through a single fruit tree and the way it brought together two families, in this new book, Tolan methodically retraces a Palestinian boy's journey from a refugee camp to Europe and finally back to Palestine, where he becomes head of a network of musical conservatories in areas bordered by Israel.

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    Where We Used to Live


    My wife and I lived in a tiny co-op here for years, then we moved to the Middle East. My dad died and Kelly moved to Iraq and then we tried to make it work in Beirut. On leave one winter, I decided to walk from Eldridge Street all the way to the Rockaways. It was snowing and sleeting. I drank a lot of coffee. What death hadn't ruined, the hurricane had taken care of. I've tried to figure out how to come back to New York. Still looking for a way. But not that hard.

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    Party Bus

    THE BUTTER - 7 APRIL 2015

    We live in the future, so I’m on a bus in Los Angeles and log onto Twitter to write a note to the author of a book I’m reading: “Loving yr novel. Managing to focus on its pages during a manic bus ride to Venice Beach, during which a drunk guy fell on me”

    “Thank you so much,” writes the author, Rabih Alamaddine. “Haven’t had a drunk guy fall on me in ages!”

    This is a story about a bus ride on a Saturday night just before sundown. Things get intense. The bus to Venice Beach is no joke. Neither is life, writing, or a good book.

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    Mark Doten's 'The Infernal' a darkly twisted take on Iraq war


    We've watched films portraying and critiquing 9/11. We've read sober nonfiction books chronicling it and thoughtful fiction by soldiers — some with MFAs — who are beginning to process what they saw there. But what we haven't read is anything quite like "The Infernal," Mark Doten's deliriously demented new novel.

    A dark and insane fantasy about the players large and small who populated our post-9/11 landscape, it's not just the book we've maybe wanted but possibly the book we've needed — a strange lens to help us understand who we were, what we've done and who we may yet become.

    The satirical novel unfolds over dozens of classified records released from a network called Memex. Passages are interrupted by dense and frightening lines of code: "I've brought my understanding to this porta-potty town, Condi," writes L. Paul Bremer, "and with that understanding I will reverse Jay [Garner]'s damage, the corrosive effect of the khaki and collared regime, work though the devastation, the mischief, undo and soothe it, usher in a new era in the Green zone, thus in Baghdad, thus Iraq, thus the region and worl LKEKE LL035COS2BPAL TLHK9 FQ XGPOE."

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    Lines From The New Yorker's 3.5-Star Yelp Listing

    THE AWL - 26 FEBRUARY 2015

    “I will never read The New Yorker again.”

    “NYC bores nowadays.”

    “Thank you New Yorker for helping me kill time the other day.”

    “I had lost interests in their article qualities so I stopped subscribing paper version a year ago. However I would like to have a free New Yorker logo tote so I subscribed digital version…Today In receiving this tote I feel not only disappointed but also cheapened myself.”

    “This is a great magazine to subscribe to if you’re too busy to find a better one.”

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    Amazed and Confused: My Night at the Movies


    For part of my 20s, I worked as a journalist in New York, writing and editing news, and shepherding various forms of what I thought were important stories from pitch to completion. Then, in 2008, my wife set out to work full-time as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and I tagged along. Over the next five years, I watched her covering difficult stories: the growth of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the supposed wind-down of our war in Iraq, the failed revolutions in Bahrain and Syria. Faced with stories more urgent, perhaps, than the ones I’d known in New York, I became convinced that what I thought I knew about how cities functioned and how people ought to act with each other was untrue or at least incomplete and probably down-right naïve. In my new life, while my wife roamed the globe, I was meanwhile often a single parent, and with a great deal of effort I was attempting to find meaning in this new role. So I wrote personal essays. Some of them were uncertain, others emotional, and most of them raw and strange and inconclusive.

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    The Greatest Rock Show I'd Ever Seen


    At 16 years old, I interviewed Ian MacKaye.

    Standing in a weird sort-of tiki hut behind a rock club in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on April 2, 1996, I stubbed out an unfiltered Camel and asked strange, sometimes stupid questions to this punk rock iconoclast, the lead singer of post-hardcore band Fugazi.

    I was talking to the man who founded enormously influential Dischord Records, who created (and later disbanded) hardcore punk legends Minor Threat, who then somehow brought out another great band in Fugazi. With a hooded sweatshirt and combat boots, a dedication to veganism and an élan for eschewing drugs and alcohol, this guy could count himself among the godfathers of American punk rock. And all I wanted to know is whether he might equate the health risks of caramel with the supposed evils of eating meat.

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    Growing Up and Plugging Out


    It’s Sunday and my neck is still sore. I don’t have meningitis and I wasn’t in a car wreck. What I did was buy a turntable, and on Friday night we played it loudly. Here’s why and what it might mean for you, especially if you are a dad:

    A year ago, I was living in the Middle East. My wife was a foreign correspondent and for five years she and I quite happily turned over our cultural life, such as it was, to the digital realm. Doing so was convenient, fast, and avoided the strict censorship rules unique to various countries we called home (Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and also meant we could stream NPR and download Mad Men and follow friends and read the novelSwamplandia when we heard about how awesome it was. (It was phenomenal.)

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    The Year in Nathan Deuel, 2014 Edition

    It was a crazy year. We left Beirut. Before 2013 ended, I was teaching at Deep Springs College. Then we moved to Los Angeles and settled into a tiny cottage in Venice Beach. The first months of 2014, I was either hammering on things at the house or preparing for a tour to support my first book. As the pub date approached, I tried to sell excerpts. I did lots of interviews. Then I read from the book — some events well attended, others not—and suddenly it was summer. I got a job at UCLA, and I started writing up a course. I had no idea what I was doing. But I did my best. Now I’m on holiday in Central Illinois, where most of my family lives. I might have one more piece publish before the year is up and if I do, I’ll update this. Update: I wrote about buying a turntable for Pacific Standard. It’s been a huge honor, to write for big (The New York Times MagazineHarper’s) and the less-so (Trop, American Circus). I love to write. And here are Update: seventeen things I did in 2014.

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    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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