25 March, 2014

Jen Percy Examines the Aftermath of War

Over at the Huffington Post interviewing Jen Percy on her research for her book, Demon Camp (Scribner). Her account of Caleb Daniels and his battle with PTSD, has been optioned by Paramount. . You can read the full interview here. Below, an excerpt.

RF: You met Caleb Daniels, the main character in this work, in 2008, when he had transformed from being a soldier trained and off at war to being a civilian un-trained at coming home, and you were an MFA student at Iowa. How difficult was it to build a sense of trust in him that you would be able to tell a story that was true to his experience?

JP: With Caleb the trust was immediate because that’s how he lives his life: by fate and intuition. He thought our lives intersected so that I could tell his story. But I’m not sure I’ve ever been faced with that question directly from a subject. Either they talk to you or they don’t. Caleb’s idea of himself is different than the way others perceive him. Which is true of all of us. But, for example, he told me he thought he was like Achilles from the Iliad taking revenge for the death of Patroclus (who we can understand as his best friend Kip Jacoby). But Caleb didn’t say the Iliad or Achilles, he said the movie Troy and the actor Brad Pitt that plays Achilles. So in many ways, there was his narrative of himself and there were my observations of him making sense of himself, and then there were my interpretations of these narratives. I think those layers need to be there for the reader. The “I” is always in the way, but we need to step back and let subjects do the talking as well. The tension between these layers is interesting. They are like the tectonic plates of nonfiction writing. When they collide, the earth cleaves, and something deeper is revealed.

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.