A decade later, are readers fatigued with books about 9/11?
In the flowering of unity that followed the 9/11 attacks, even the Hatfields and the McCoys officially settled their famous feud. Now, as we prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary, America is paralyzed by division. Can books explain what happened?
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And if they can, will anyone read them? As The New York Times reported earlier this week, the new round of 9/11 books must overcome the public’s “lukewarm” response to previous books about the event. What’s more, will people still want to read books about 9-11 “after weeks of magazine covers, newspaper articles and wall-to-wall cable news coverage?”
Let me add: Americans might be forgiven if they are too exhausted, nervous and distracted to give the 10th anniversary an expected degree of attention and reverence. A decade of war, economic catastrophe, and the sorry spectacle of a toxic political atmosphere, with politicians unable or unwilling to work together, can sap the spirit of even the most patriotic citizenry.
One volume that’s exceeding expectation, according to The New York Times, is Granta 116: Ten Years After, the Autumn issue of the prestigious quarterly journal. Technically Granta is a magazine, but it looks, feels and reads like the liveliest anthology you’ve ever seen.
For example, the online version of Granta 116 is where I found the fascinating story by Dean H. King on how the Hatfields and McCoys signed a formal peace treaty to unite as Americans in their shared grief over 9/11. Always inventive in its themed issues, Granta’s print version includes includes essays, poems, and short stories from Nicole Krauss, Pico Iyer, Jynne Martin, Nadeem Alsam and others.
What’s more, Granta is sponsoring 50 literary events around the world, bringing writers together to talk about 9/11 and its impact on the world, life and literature. One of these is scheduled for Sunday at Books & Books in Coral Gables at 5 p.m., featuring novelists Edwidge Danticat, Diana Abu-jaber, Cristina Garcia and M. Evelina Galang. For a complete list of Granta events worldwide, visit http://www.granta.com/Events.
Public fatigue with 9/11 books can be seen in inexplicable indifference to The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, by the bestselling husband-and-wife team of Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. Authors of previous books on Frank Sinatra and Richard Nixon, Summers and Swan have waded through some 300,000 pages of recently released documents and conducted fresh interviews to create a panoramic account of what happened that day, and after.
Writing with astonishing detail, Summers and Swan relate the actions of the terrorists who hijacked the planes, many of the passengers, pilots and victims on the ground, and the first responders. They follow the story into the highest levels of the Bush administration, examine the conspiracy theories of the “9/11 truth” movement, and include the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2 — amazing feat, as the book went on sale only two months later, in July.
Note that: Published in July — but have you read or heard about it? Me, neither, until a friend recommended it to me.
The Eleventh Day is a terrific feat of intense, old-style journalism, brimming with thoroughly sourced detail, yet cast into a strong narrative that reads at times like a thriller. For a comprehensive one-volume retrospective account of 9/11 and its aftermath, this book will be hard to beat for some time to come.
The Granta event at Books & Books is free. The address is 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. For more information, visit the bookstore website.