First published: Sunday, October 7, 2007, in the Albany Times Union
As President Bush tries to shape his legacy in regards to the Iraq war, he should pick up David Silbey’s engaging history “A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902” (Hill and Wang; 272 pages; $26).
Though both were wars of choice, the details are quite different. Still, the generalizations that can be gleaned from Silbey’s account are eerily familiar: a quick and stunning conventional military victory turns into longer-than-expected guerrilla warfare; a failure by the United States to understand its enemy; a sense of racial superiority that enflames troops and politicians in Washington; and a native population whose loyalties seemed to change depending on the time of day.
I am still in disbelief that Mike Jarboe is gone. I am so glad to have read so many stories about him and tributes to him, and that his family knows how many people he has touched and how deeply. Everyone who’s ever met Mike Jarboe has a Mike Jarboe story. Here are some of the things that come to my mind.
We worked together on the Times Union news copy desk for about six years. One of the best things for me about those years were the “slot/rim” meetings I had with him.
If you read my announcement on this blog last week, then you already know this news. But it caught the attention of the good people at the Albany Times Union, including current arts editor Gary Hahn. He worked his magic and one of the newest hires to the TU, Sara Tracey, was kind enough to write up my literary news.
The New York State Writers Institute recently released its spring schedule, but in thinking about writers coming to the region this spring, my first thought goes to Darin Strauss.
His books include the memoir “Half of Life” (2010), in which he recounts how he killed a classmate in a car accident and its aftermath, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, and his 2001 debut “Chang and Eng” (2001), a fictionalized account of the famous conjoined brothers.
It was because of that book that I first heard Strauss give a talk in the common room of a dorm at Skidmore College. I was a student at the New York State Summer Writers Institute, studying with Marilyn Robinson and Russell Banks, and he was one of the alumni with a success story – the publication of his first novel. He said he had worked on the novel at the Writers Institute at Skidmore, and was especially impressed with the sharp-eyed Douglas Glover, who at that time would read manuscripts from students and offer a one-on-one critique that was both thrilling and terrifying.
What I remember best was how Strauss responded to the question of what it was like going from a writer working away, often alone, to having published a book. He said something like, “You know the saying, ‘the quiet before the storm.’? Well, it’s like the quiet after the quiet.”