where the writers are
Nº 62 Hot Air On Hot News In A Hot Country

Writers are a curious breed. Most of us spend the greater part of our time discreetly observing the people around us, refraining from intruding on the conversation, but prompting others to speak, while we sit there, watching, watching, watching, always bloody watching, quietly taking mental notes like so many psycho-analysts peering over your shoulder, “Hm-hmm! Now that is interesting. So, tell me, how did you feel about that, hm?”

 It must get a bit irksome for the people living with us.

 But behind this gentle, self-effacing Dr. Jekyll lurks a ravening Mr. Hyde, who just can’t wait to start mouthing off. Confront a writer with a keyboard, put a pencil in an author’s hand, and we’re away, scattering opinions, dispensing lucubrations, and delivering ourselves of judgments, like a gaggle of politicians competing for a podium.

I lived in Sudan for a while, a short while, a long while ago, but the brevity and antiquity of my acquaintance with the place hasn’t prevented me first writing a novel set there and now editorializing about it on AOL News. Happily, I’ve shown the AOL piece to a few old Sudan hands and they seem to be largely in agreement about my assessment of the situation. But it does seem like the most breathtaking arrogance. Perhaps not quite so bad as those people who, with our sly connivance, will monopolize the dinner party conversation until even the dog is toying with the cutlery and wondering how to go about slitting his wrists. Even so.

Oh, well. Ego will out, I suppose. If you want to judge for yourself, it goes like this . . .

“In the 1980s, I lived in Sudan and Ivory Coast, and since then both countries have succumbed to civil war, ethnic conflict and political corruption, and have dallied with diplomatic isolation and pariah status. I am, it would seem, the guest from hell, leaving chaos in my wake wherever I go.

This is absurd -- at least, I hope it is -- but it is no less absurd than the simplifications we impose on complicated situations. Take Sudan . . . .”

Read the rest on AOL News.

If you’ve got an urge to do a bit of mouthing off yourself, get in touch with Gina Misiroglu at Red Room. She helped place this piece. She is the patron saint of clandestine windbags like myself.