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David Wyatt, And Then the War Came: An Accidental Memoir

For Our Class

1. Cover art—Two things really struck me about the cover art: the presences of the TV with an image of the un-struck towers, and the lack of people. For all of the reviewers’ comments about the very “human” aspects of the work, what does it mean that the cover both precedes (while following) the event and, additionally, does not feature any people? How does the books appearance as a hardcover item affect the non-monetary value of the book? Does the memoir gain more weight?

2. Does the overwhelmingly positive reception—with its emphasis on the recorded experiences of a ‘normal’ person—indicate an inclination towards autobiography as opposed to fiction? In what ways does this memoir satisfy the demands that readers placed on the fictional works we have previously read?

3. Interestingly, Wyatt is not really an average Joe author. He is a widely published tenured university professor—with an Ivy League pedigree—who also dabbles in the restaurant industry as an owner and chef. Both positions give him two different points of privilege, in addition to the general societal privileges of the middle-aged white male. In what way does his privilege intersect with those works we have previously read? For example, in this memoir, Wyatt struck me as a more admirable Murray Thwaite. Of course, Wyatt is a real person, but how closely does the memoir mirror the effects of privilege found in the fictional characters?

4. I was also really interested in the ‘neatness’ of the writing. Supposedly stemming from diary entries, this book reads more like a long personal essay. The prose is clear, lovely, and woven with literary references and personal opinions. Did the well-polished memoir strike anyone as being closer to fictional works because of this ‘neatness?”

5. What would have been gained or lost by including some transcripts or reproductions of the diary pages? Does the choice not to include them make the work more or less fictionalized? Would containing multiple mediums make the book more “real”? Does the reviewers’ acceptance of the work as totally real (as opposed to highly constructed) indicate a move away from irony?

6. On the topic of irony, does this book as a whole coincide with a move away from irony? If so, what does it mean that a memoir achieves this, instead of a work of fiction?

7. This memoir gives the reader a strong sense of intertextuality. For example, Wyatt mentions Susan Sontag’s article multiple times and observes Spiegelman’s black tower cover (71). Do these reference ground the book in the ‘present’ in which it was written or bring it closer to the realm of a fictionalized narrative?


For the Author

1. Is there a way to successfully fictionalize 9/11? If not or if so, why? Have you come across any “9/11 novels” that you think represent the event well? If fiction is less than sufficient, do you see the representation of the event falling on the side of the critics or on the memoirs? How does the extensive amount of mediation and journalism coverage surrounding on the event effect an author’s ability to represent it?

2. Did organizing, editing, and revising your initial diary entries and thoughts make the process of writing this ‘accidental’ memoir feel less immediate? What aspects of the work remain accidental? What were some accidental aspects of the work that were removed?

3. I’m really interested in your choice to ‘name names,’ as it were. Why did you choose to include the full names of several of the people you mention in the novel?

4. In many of the reviews, your memoir and writing were praised because they struck readers as human and less political (a virtue to said readers) than other works on the same subject. Do you think these are fair readings of the work?