Tuesday, June 16, 2009

J. Robert Lennon

J. Robert Lennon is the author of four novels including Mailman and The Light of Falling Stars. His stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, the Paris Review, Granta, Harper’s, and the New Yorker.

His latest novel is Castle.

From a March 2007 Q & A at Corduroy Books:

I’m curious about how much Castle is/was, fundamentally, a sort of political act for you, a way to maybe try to exorcize the really, really awful ‘intelligence’/military policy issues of the previous administration. That’s actually not that clear: the book seems, overtly, to be about exactly that, about working out the deception at the center/heart of our lives, and so maybe the question is, how much of that was intentional and planned? Is Castle your attempt to forgive/close this really really atrocious part of our recent past?

I wanted, very specifically, to write a novel about the collective damage that our torture policy has done to the American psyche. That was my original intent. I struggled for the better part of a year with a novel about an Iraq War vet in a fugue state who falls in with domestic terrorists, but it all seemed too contrived, and it wouldn’t get off the ground. Then my wife told me about an article she’d read about a guy who discovered an abandoned castle in a state forest in New Jersey, and Castle suddenly sprang into focus. I had the whole thing in my head a few weeks later, though it took a lot of revisions to get to the finished product.

I don’t see any fogiveness or closure here, though. I mean, I am very happy with President Obama so far, but even he isn’t departing very far from Bush’s claimed privileges, particularly on the issue of so-called extraordinary rendition. What I’m writing about is a chronic national sickness that is not going to be cured in my lifetime. A few reviews of Castle have called its political message awkward or clumsy, but my obsession with politics had become so intense that to address these things any less directly would have been a kind of hypocrisy. It’s the novel I needed to write at the time.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn more about the book and author at J. Robert Lennon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Castle.

--Marshal Zeringue