Writing

A photojournalist’s memoir of deadly close-ups

Scott Anderson writes a review of a photojounalist’s memoir of deadly close-ups. The book, A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario tackles the experiences of photojournalists on the battlefield, especially with the added pressure of being a woman in what is wrongly considered a man’s field. She writes about her time in Libya and her capture by qaddafi’s forces, and the hell that followed. She also gives the read a brief history of her life leading to this dangerous occupation, and her experiences in living as an afghan woman in disguise.

Read an excerpt of the article written by Lynsey Addario:

The modern battlefield can induce a peculiar strain of skewed logic among those sent to chronicle it. Upon a landscape where it is often mortally dangerous simply to stand in one place, how much worse can it be to venture a little farther, to get a bit closer? And having assumed the added risk of getting closer, how then to leave before you’ve taken the perfect image, conducted one last interview? What makes such calculations especially tricky is that most modern battlefields have no recognizable boundaries or rules of conduct; they bear less resemblance to any traditional war movie than, say, to ‘‘Mad Max.’’ In the opening of her affecting memoir, ‘‘It’s What I Do,’’ the photojournalist Lynsey Addario provides a harrowing account of just where such moth-to-the-flame thinking can lead. In March 2011, Ms. Addario was in Libya covering the civil war when she, along with a local driver and three other journalists on assignment with The New York Times, ventured into the exposed front-line town of Ajdabiya. (Although we have both covered conflicts for The Times, I have never worked with Ms. Addario, and we are only passing acquaintances.) Ms. Addario had feelings of foreboding from the outset, fears that amplified amid reports that loyalists to Muammar el-Qaddafi were encircling the town. Working against this, though, was the call of her profession. ‘‘We are greedy by nature,’’ she notes of war photographers and reporters. ‘‘We always want more than what we have. The consensus in the car at that point was to keep working.’’ As the only woman in that car, Ms. Addario felt further pressure to keep her concerns to herself. ‘‘I didn’t want to be the cowardly photographer or the terrified girl who prevented the men from doing their work.’’ When at last the group decided it was time to get out, it was too late: Captured by Col. Qaddafi’s soldiers, the four journalists were bound and blindfolded and taken away; their driver was dead, summarily executed or killed in the crossfire. What ensued over the next several days was a horrifying ordeal, as the journalists were paraded through loyalist towns, to be punched and hit with rifle butts — and in Ms. Addario’s case, sexually groped — by soldiers and the crowd. In the most unforgettably ghastly moment, Ms. Addario remembers how one of the captors caressed her face and hair ‘‘like a lover,’’ while softly ‘‘repeating the same phrase over and over.’’ She assumed the man was trying to comfort her, until an Arabic-speaking fellow captive told her the truth: ‘‘He’s telling you that you will die tonight.’’ Eventually transferred into the far gentler custody of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the journalists were ultimately released and flown out of the country. ...read more

The Opposite of Loneliness Essays and Stories

The poignant article by Marina Keegan, “The Opposite of Loneliness” deals with the author’s fears and hopes on graduating from college. She fears getting lost in the modern web, and losing the safety that college provides, both physically and mentally. But she also look back to what all her experiences in college have taught her, and decides to use them to quell her fears going into years ahead. Her first and unfortunately last book (author now deceased) of the same title deals with similar themes. 

Read an excerpt of the article written by Marina Keegan:

The Opposite of Loneliness We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow after Commencement and leave this place. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four A.M. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats. Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers—partnerless, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group texts. This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse, I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now. But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m thirty. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should have . . . ,” “if I’d . . . ,” “wish I’d . . .” Of course, there are things we wish we’d done: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my high school self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us. But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes . . .). We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay. We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out—that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. .... 

Is being a writer a job or a calling?

Who is a writer? What is his job? The author feels that the writers who touched him were those who had wanted, literally, to make something of themselves; and who offered him and others a means of understanding, and thus of elevating, their everyday lives.  Even the best writing will never have the immediate, measurable impact that a doctor’s work has, or a plumber’s. Writing is something everyone does. But is everyone a writer?

Read an excerpt of the article written by BENJAMIN MOSER:

Even the best writing won’t have the immediate, measurable impact of a doctor’s work, or a plumber’s. When, in adolescent secrecy, I began making my way from reading to writing, the writers who attracted me, the writers I wanted to be, were those who conceived of the writer as a member of a priestly caste, those whose view of literature as a means of understanding the self and the world offered a noble possibility for my life. Those writers who touched me were those who had wanted, literally, to make something of themselves; and who offered me and others a means of understanding, and thus of elevating, our everyday lives. Perhaps I was given to vocations — but vocations, as opposed to ambitions, were not much appreciated in high school; and, as when I returned from a week in a Benedictine monastery and knew not to mention how badly I had wanted to stay, I never mentioned the exalted idea I had been forming of writing. The earnestness, the vehemence the notion implied were so at odds with the surrounding ethos that it took me much longer to admit wanting to write than to admit wanting to sleep with men. That teenage vision of Parnassus was followed by years of sitting at the computer, fighting off feelings of boredom with work and frustration with self, as visions of art were replaced by visions of picking up the dry cleaning. ‘‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,’’ Thomas Mann said; and it is good that no beginner suspects how torturous writing is, or how little it improves with practice, or how the real rejections come not from editors but from our own awareness of the gap yawning between measly talent and lofty vocation. Fear of that gap destroys writers: through the failure of purpose called writer’s block; through the crutches we use to carry us past it. No young writer can know how rare inspiration is — or how, in its place, the real talent turns out to be sitting down, propelling oneself, day after day, through the self-doubt surrounding our nebulous enterprise, trying to believe, as when we began, that writing is important. ...read more