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BTT: Villainy

September 11, 2008

Since I need more structure to help keep me blogging regularly, I think Booking Through Thursday is a great place to start! Of course, this week’s topic is a little heavier than most…

Question: Today is the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I know that not all of you who read are in the U.S., but still, it’s vital that none of us who are decent people forget the scope of disaster that a few, evil people can cause–anywhere in the world. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it’s about the acknowledgment that humans should try to work together, not tear each other apart, even when they disagree.

So, feeling my way to a question here … Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read? Personally, I used to enjoy reading Tom Clancy, but haven’t been able to stomach his fight-terrorist kinds of books since.

And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?

Ummmmmmmm……….. y’all know by now that I avoid talking about politics as much as possible on my blog. Even though I studied international relations in college, and now I’m getting a master’s in international policy (non-proliferation) and I’m actually auditing on Introduction to Terrorism class this semester, I still feel uncomfortable ‘getting into it’ in a forum like this. Mainly, because it’s a lot more difficult to have a conversation without the benefits of body language, facial expressions, and tone. So, I’d just like to express reservations about how this topic was worded (since it’s on my blog, I want people to realise it’s certainly not something I would have said) and move on.

My fiction choices aren’t really affected by world events. However, my nonfiction selections are! Since I’m an international relations junkie, and since 9/11 and the administration’s reaction to it fundamentally changed the international landscape, I’ve read quite a few books on topics like religious terrorism, Al-Qaeda, U.S. foreign policy, the war in Iraq, etc. For me, it’s hugely important to have a well-rounded, educated view of the issues; I also find them fascinating (and repugnant). I freely admit that many of these books make me cry in parts; I’m in no way a cynic! But, the books flesh in the soundbites that TV news (don’t even get me started on how much I hate it-I only read my news, never watch it) prefers, and while nothing can justify the targeting of civilians as a means for political messages, there is a historical background and context from which terrorism arises. Reading these kinds of books will destroy any black-and-white notions you have about the world; I think that’s a good thing.

Wow: I didn’t really answer the question at all, did I? But I guess since this touches on my education and professional focus, I don’t view it as a book question so much as a life question. *shrug*

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2008 12:34 pm

    I agree with you, Eva. A fictional villain is a lot different than a real-life villain (or villains) that you read about in nonfiction books or essays or whatever. I don’t mind reading about fictional killers at all. I think my attitude about the dark side of human nature changed when I read Bugliosi’s book “Helter Skelter” in high school. There’s some really evil people out there, and terrorism can be enacted on any scale.

    I don’t think this makes much sense, so I guess I’ll leave now!

  2. September 11, 2008 12:43 pm

    Huge layers of historical and cultural context exist for terrorism. I have strayed away completely and avoided talking about the attack because it really hits a very, very sore spot in me. Nothing really knows how or why bin-Laden did what he did. All that have been published, down the pike, are just building on the evidence that *has* been laid out since the investigation. All I know is that what ever these terrorists do, it’s on their conscience.

  3. September 11, 2008 12:51 pm

    I really would like to get you started about hating TV news. I hate it so much, too. And I’m also curious about which exact parts of the BTT paragraphs you hated, but that’s just nosiness, and I don’t expect an answer. :)

  4. September 11, 2008 12:55 pm

    Not only did the 9/11 attacks change the way I read, but they influence the way I write too. My second book is about a terrorist attack in 1800.
    These days I am reading “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” – fiction, but a really compelling book.

  5. September 11, 2008 9:24 pm

    AN IR major? I graduated a little over a year ago with my Bachelor’s and want to go to grad school in January to continue studying. Any good IR books you can recommend?

  6. verbivore permalink
    September 11, 2008 10:28 pm

    Eva, what are some books you would recommend that deal specifically with US Foreign policy, as you know this is my background too so I’d be interested to see a short list of some of your recent faves!

  7. September 12, 2008 8:05 am

    I like to second verbivore’s questions. It seems like the vast majority of book blogs focus on fiction, which is fine. I love fiction. But I also enjoy non-fiction, history mainly. There are so many books about this topic that it’s difficult to find the two or three I should read if I want to be well informed, and I do. I’d love to hear your recommendations. Not just on this topic either. It would be great to get more non-fiction reviewed on the book blogs.

    Thanks for a thoughtful response to the BTT. I thought about mine so much, I ended up with nothing to say.

  8. September 12, 2008 8:21 am

    I couldn’t agree more with you when it comes to TV news. I don’t watch it. However, during the national conventions (because I wanted to see them as they were happening), I watched quite a lot and was reminded of exactly why I hate it so much. You are so right that reading in-depth, analytical works is much preferable for those of us who are really trying to learn and to understand. Television news is all about entertaining/shocking/making a buck.

    The 9/11 attacks didn’t change the way I read at all. Blogs, on the other hand, have changed the way I read immensely…(But that discussion has already taken place all over the blogosphere.)

  9. September 12, 2008 1:08 pm

    I didn’t answer the question because I thought it would have been more relevant to ask AUTHORS not readers. They are the ones writing the books.

  10. September 19, 2008 9:26 am

    Chartroose, I agree: there are definitely evil people out there. I try to avoid true crime books, just because I hate the idea of being entertained by a real killer. :(

    Matt, definitely!

    Dewey, hehe: it’d pretty much be I hate it, I hate it, I hate it (re: tv news). And I’m totally ignoring your other question. :p

    Catherine, that’s interesting! I didn’t realise that 9/11 affected you wanting to write about historical terrorism. I’m so excited to read The Reluctant Fundamentalist: it’s on my shelf! :D

    Aria, I’ll put a list together at some point! I’m actually going to be hosting an IR challenge next year. ;)

    Verbivore, I’ll think about it and get back to you!

    CB, that’s why I typed asI thought; otherwise, I probably would have skipped it! And I try to review non-fiction; it tends to take me more time though.

    Emily, yep: blogs have definitely changed my reading!!

    Chris, that makes sense!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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