Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lorraine Adams

Lorraine Adams was educated at Princeton University and was a graduate fellow at Columbia University, where she received a master’s degree in literature. A staff writer for the Washington Post for 11 years, she won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Her new novel is The Room and the Chair.

From an interview with Adams at The Nervous Breakdown:

DH: In your novel, there's a classified report that gets leaked to the media. But it's the sensational parts of the report, really not that significant, that get all the attention. The most salient facts in the voluminous report don't get noticed, even though they are in plain sight. The public is always shocked when the dots are not connected. But it's the public themselves who are the worst at connecting the dots. Aren't the answers in plain sight sometimes but we are not seeing them? What role do you think literature can play in connecting the dots?

LA: Consider the Napoleonic wars. In the first decade afterwards, a reader will find state records, memoir and correspondence. Sometime after, historical accounts appear that try to synthesize those writings. Eventually historians take issue with those accounts, usually with conceptual narratives that make a story out of the claims and counterclaims of the histories themselves. But if you want to know what the Napoleonic wars felt like to the human beings caught up in them, you read War and Peace or The Charterhouse of Parma. Fiction gives us a grasp of seemingly vague or disparate phenomenon. It makes meaning. History and non-fiction, at least the intellectually honest practice of both, give us arguments about what is knowable. Somehow today it's gotten fashionable to call what I call meaning-making “connecting the dots.” But only fiction can do that. Intelligence is the collection of data and making arguments about what that data portend. Our expectations about what intelligence gatherers can extrapolate speedily from data is way too high. First, these gatherers of data are evaluating things which are definitely not dots. And they're not working with the traditional childhood numbered dots. The data is all around the globe and it sure doesn't have any numbers. So what the data gatherers must do is...[read on]
Visit Lorraine Adams' website.

--Marshal Zeringue