“The walls here are like a daily newspaper, trying to make us get off the couch and roam the streets demanding all that is written on the walls.” — Níkos Tρavvós
Because I am an American married to a Turk and have written about her country in memoirs and a novel, I tend to gravitate to novels by Americans that are set in that big, messy, volatile country that’s hard for outsiders to get their heads around. Even though it has been a liberal democracy almost a century, modernity still clashes with tradition, poverty mushrooms in the dark shadows of wealth, and as in many countries of late—sadly including mine—its politics have grown distinctly illiberal. As one of Elliot Ackerman’s characters cynically remarks, “There is no Turkey, only Turkish elites.”
Liar’s Candle, a novel by August Thomas, New York: Scribner, 2018, 310 p. IBSN 9781501172847
When I learned of this book late last year, it struck a chord. It was the first recent political thriller I had encountered set in Turkey, as is part of one I published about six months later. And so, to compare notes, I gave it a read and found that our books are different animals with kindred spirits. Here is my book report.
The title of August Thomas’s debut international thriller comes from a Turkish proverb, “A liar’s candle burns only until dark,” an appropriate motto for the full helping of duplicity that Thomas serves up. This fast-moving tale whips the reader between locales in Turkey and the US, plus a brief, tense incursion into northern Syria. Changes of scene are datelined, dispatch-style, helping to keep one oriented as the action shifts from one exotic setting to another, for example the presidential palace in Ankara, a hotel in Istanbul, a city in far-eastern Turkey, a monastery in Syria, and even into ancient cave dwellings. Thomas also regularly transports us across the Atlantic to an even more inaccessible location, CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. There we find hard-boiled uber-spy Christina Ekdahl remotely rattling the cages of agents and diplomats working in Turkey in the service of American national security and her own self-serving designs.
Before we get going, this is a certificate recently presented to me at the Independent Publishers of New England annual conference for my novel, the…
Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton, 2019, 256 p. hardbound), ISBN 987-0-393-65169-0, $23.95. Also available in eBook and audiobook formats.
The entities called computers were originally human beings, people like the accounts clerk Bob Cratchit in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In the mid-20th century, computers were (mostly) women who worked calculators and slide rules, tasked with tabulating data and solving numerical problems. Nowadays, says Douglas Rushkoff, computers run us as extensions of applications that abuse us for fun and profit. Rushkoff has had it with the soul-sucking “innovation economy”; to retrieve the human agency and dignity that technocracy has usurped, he proposes not a revolution but a renaissance of pre-industrial, even pre-enlightenment, societal values. Rushkoff emerged as an early member of the digerati, but has since been a longstanding critic of those who control digital media and manipulate its users, not to mention capitalism itself. Now a professor of media studies (CUNY Queens), public intellectual, and podcast host, he’s quietly assembling an army of change agents. Their mission is to “challenge the operating system that drives our society” by organizing the (better-educated) masses to throw off their (block) chains by imagining and building human-scale alternatives to giant financial institutions, public corporations, and their enablers. Given how overarching and well-wired global capitalism is, that’s a tall order, but Rushkoff asserts that the battle can be won if we stick together.
Just in case you don’t know, writing is a bitch. Whatever one writes, be it a story, reportage, poem, novel, job application, or even a…
After suffering a cheeseburger infarction, Donald Trump finds himself queuing toward eternity. He shuffles up to the Pearly Gates in a foul mood for not being accorded élite status. Not relishing taking a deposition from the addled gentleman, St Peter sloughs him off to Paul, his Deputy Secretary for Lost Souls, who asks Donald to name three things that qualify him to enter the realm of eternal peace, harmony, and brotherly love.
The United States Government must be very proud of how many enemies it has identified and created through dint of hard work over more than seven decades. Americans can sleep well knowing that its 17 official intelligence agencies (not to mention unofficial ones) are working around the clock to keep them safe from subversion, seamlessly coordinated by the Director of National Intelligence (currently Dan Coats, but perhaps not for long). Here they be: