The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru
How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.
David Samuels | May 5 | New York Times Magazine
Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”
Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.
[Comment: Do read the whole thing. If you find yourself mentally bitching about the piece being too long, congratulations you have just discovered that you are part of the problem. I’m sure the first order impassioned blog fallout will be about what manipulative bastards “they” are – the more cogent criticism would centre around what makes their actions a necessary part of diplomacy in the current environment. I’m not optimistic that many reading the above will question the extent to which they personally are part of the problem, but you damned well should. ~ JPD]
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