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Writing the 9/11 Decade investigates the relation of the novel to journalism, and the role of both in shaping culture, by looking at novelists' journalistic responses to 9/11. Journalist and literary critic Charlie Lee-Potter argues that novelists were entrapped by the expectation that they would provide an immediate journalistic response to the September 11 attacks. Jonathan Lethem expressed the plaintive view that 'most of the novelists in New York were asked by one magazine or another to write something, and to me it seems our voices, at that moment, blended into one vast impotent scream'.
Beginning with an examination of the sometimes mawkish literary journalism that emerged in the days after the attacks, Writing the 9/11 Decade traces its evolution-in writers such as Ian McEwan, Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, Mohsin Hamid, and Nadeem Aslam-into new literary methods of imbricating the disaster, while attempting to stand apart from it. It includes interviews with novelists such as Richard Ford, Amy Waldman and Kamila Shamsie, as well as the only long-form interview granted by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is himself a 9/11 survivor. In assessing the novel's capacity to respond to and contain an unimagined traumatic event, Writing the 9/11 Decade stands as a contemporary history of the form as well as of the tradition of the novel as cultural discourse.