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Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

“The Room and the Chair”

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From this feature in last week’s issue of SD CityBeat:

Book: The Room and the Chair

Lorraine Adams, a former staff writer for The Washington Post who guzzles Red Bull and travels to Pakistan in her off time, brings an intimate knowledge of secret government operations and newsroom dynamics to her second novel. Ostensibly about a female fighter jet pilot who becomes the unwitting guinea pig in a secret government program, The Room and the Chair delves into the kaleidoscopic relationship between a high-level spook and the reporters and editors of a major daily—where getting the scoop takes priority over figuring out what the hell’s actually going on. Both a penetrating analysis and a tender character study, this captivating spy thriller makes for an unsettling assessment of the War on Terror.

—Peter Holslin

Now here’s the blurb that couldn’t fit:
Those who know me well will know that Lorraine Adams is a former professor of mine–the best professor I ever had, in fact. Not only did she teach me how to write well (“Short. Declarative. Sentences.”), but she showed me (along with many of my friends and peers) how to research and report and think and then write well. She assigned difficult tasks and had us figure it out for ourselves. She held insightful class discussions (and if you didn’t do the reading, God help you!). She carefully workshopped our writing. She coaxed some of the best writing I’ve ever done out of me.
Because of her, I also became fascinated with important issues and parts of the world that I never paid much attention to in my youth. As our classes (I took her intro, intermediate and advanced nonfiction/journalism classes) discussed the disturbing events taking place in the White House, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005-2006, reading and digesting and dissecting countless news reports and other texts, I became more aware that things needed to change, more eager to change things–and more patriotic in a horrified kind of way.
All the while, she kept making references to this novel she was working on. I always assumed The Room and the Chair was a reference to an interrogation room in some god-forsaken “black site” until she told me otherwise. Needless to say, I’d been eagerly anticipating its release ever since I heard she was writing it. In so many ways, this novel is a summation of all the things I learned in her classes. But it’s also a terrific read.
Lorraine only taught at the New School for a couple of years, but she is something of a legend among my peers. Ask any of my former classmates and they’ll tell you how much she’s admired (and, in a healthy way, feared). With that said, read The Room and the Chair. (And while you’re at it, read her first novel, Harbor.) Maybe Lorraine Adams will blow your mind as she did ours.
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