Monday, May 18, 2009

What is Robert Roper reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robert Roper, author of Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War.

His entry begins:
I just finished a two-year stint as a judge in a fiction prize competition, so most if not all of my discretionary reading time was taken up with reading all or part of roughly 80 nominated novels per year...oy vey. If you like novels do not ever accept such an assignment. Since this year's awards were announced about a month ago I've read nothing fictional, nothing at all. Maybe my novel appetite will return some day.

That said, a couple of novels from the last two years gave me a lot of pleasure. One is Finding Nouf, by Zoë Ferraris. It's a cleanly written, humanly rich nominal murder mystery set in contemporary Saudi Arabia. The author was married to a Saudi man some years ago and lived there and kept her eyes open. Imagine a modern-day Emily Bronte parachuted into the land of Wahabi restrictions on women's education and free movement. No kind of tract, the novel biopsies Saudi society with exquisite thoroughness and quietly presents an impossible love story...which becomes excitingly less impossible by book's end....[read on]
Robert Roper has won awards for his fiction and nonfiction alike. His book Fatal Mountaineer won the 2002 Boardman-Tasker Prize given by London’s Royal Geographical Society. His journalism appears in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, and other publications. He teaches at Johns Hopkins.

Read more about his Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War at the publisher's website.

Among the praise for Now the Drum of War:
"At its heart, despite so much suffering and death, Roper's book is a moving, vivid exploration of love in many forms....One of the great strengths of Now the Drum of War, whose title is taken from a line in Whitman's poem "City of Ships," is that it extends its reach to the whole Whitman family."
Floyd Skloot, Philadelphia Inquirer

"In Now the Drum of War, Robert Roper captures this turning point in Whitman's life -- the transformation of his poetry but also the dramatic new chapter in the story of the Whitman family."
Daniel Mark Epstein, Wall Street Journal
Writers Read: Robert Roper.

--Marshal Zeringue