Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's so weird to be reading C.J. Chivers' piece on Beslan in Esquire (its first part is online, here) - a story written by a former Marine Corps captain, among other things - and then run into this New York Times' review of John Updike's new book, his 22nd, and learn, against my will, how little it seems to take to construct a fictional account:

[...] For his new novel, "Terrorist," however, he ventured onto the Web to research bomb detonators. He was fairly certain, he remarked recently during an interview in Boston, that the only detonator he could recall — the one that Gary Cooper plunges in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" — must be out of date, but he was also reassured to discover, as he put it, that "the Internet doesn't like you to learn too much about explosives."

While working on the book, Mr. Updike, now 74, white-haired, bushy-browed and senatorial-looking, also risked suspicion by lingering around the luggage-screening machines at La Guardia Airport, where he learned that the X-rays were not in black and white, as he had imagined, but rather in lurid colors: acid green and red.

And he hired a car and a driver to take him around some of the seedier neighborhoods in Paterson, N.J., and to show him some churches and storefronts that had been converted into mosques. "He did his best, but I think I puzzled him as a tour customer," Mr. Updike said. [...]

I like what Updike has to say about adhan, though:

"Arabic is very twisting, very beautiful. The call to prayer is quite haunting; it almost makes you a believer on the spot. [...]"


Chivers' Beslan story is difficult to read - not because of some truly unspeakable images that just don't go unless you talk to someone about them, but because it is not fiction and you know what the end is as if you were there yourself.

I'll write more, I hope, when I finish reading the piece.

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