To the editor

On March 7, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Literary Novelists Address 9/11, Finally“, on the occasion of several new novels about the attacks and their aftermath.

Unfortunately, your writer seems not to have researched this matter well enough. In September 2003, I published Paul West’s novel, “The Immensity of the Here and Now: A Novel of 9.11.” This book was reviewed by the Village Voice, Library Journal, Booklist, Midwest Book Review, American Book Review the Santa Fe New Mexican, Boston’s NPR affiliate (WBUR) and the Air Force Academy’s literary Journal, War Literature and the Arts (where it was the Editor’s Choice), among other venues.

Among the comments Immensity received:

“‘The Immensity Of The Here And Now’ is profound, disturbing, and a compelling inner study of picking up the pieces in the wake of personal devastation.” (Midwest Book Review)

“In Paul West’s 23rd book of fiction [. . .], the aftereffects of [9/11] gradually come into view, then withdraw into a jungle of memory and hallucination — the tragedy perpetually accessible and elusive, too easy and too impossible to imagine.” (Village Voice)

“As West so ingeniously perceives it, 9.11 is not just a day that will live in infamy, but an infamy that will exist at a particular place and on a particular day forever.” (War, Literature and the Arts)

“Risky, raucous, filled with moments of audacious beauty, ‘Immensity’ proves that West, our foremost word wizard, won’t play it safe, unlike so many American artists.” (Bill Marx at WBUR radio)

“West’s phenomenal command of language and the flux of consciousness, and his epic sense of the significance of 9/11 are staggering in their verve, astuteness, and resonance.” (Booklist Magazine)

Immensity was also blurbed by literary critics Sven Birkerts, Irving Malin and Hugh Nissenson. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s sites, along with national distribution to bookstores via several wholesalers and distributors. An extensive collection of reviews and blurbs is on the book’s site [now defunct. –ed].

The New York Times received advance copies four months before publication, but declined to review the novel. Evidently, a new work of fiction about 9/11 by a literary author with more than 20 volumes to his credit was not even deemed “new and noteworthy.”

Given the limited space the paper has for book reviews, I can understand the decision to pass. However, I can’t begin to imagine why Mr. Wyatt would write, “only now are books being published that some literary critics are saying take the substantial risks needed to give them staying power” when The Immensity of the Here and Now has been in print for 18 months.

Paul West may be a difficult writer, but he is one whom we should not ignore.

Gil Roth
Voyant Publishing

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