Jarett Kobek’s novel ATTA reads as a relentless laceration of the fear and disaster mythologies of globalized empire.
I was late getting to Kobek’s reading at Book Soup in West Hollywood. I was late and somehow dreading it, knowing how readings go, that is, poorly. When I finally arrived a half hour late, they were just beginning. Seconds into the reading, my fears blew up. It was perfect. Almost an anti-reading, the event was a fascinating talk and memoir interspersed with Kobek reading pages of his taut, terse prose. ATTA is 95% fact, 5% invention, says Kobek, but that invention belies its numerical limit by its staunch lack of restraint. I understand this mix of fact and invention to reflect something of our media-saturated reality. The more wild the invention, the more true it becomes, and the more weight that truth has. Think of the invention of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify America’s entry into war. A rather small but wild invention with real, massive, and durable effects.
Noura Wedell This book, compared to your first, is a more traditionally genred novel about the American Dream and what constitutes success in today’s America. How did you come to find this hero of this perverted American Dream, and why did you write about Mohamed Atta?
Jarett Kobek The American Dream part came a little bit later. About a month or two after 9/11 there were news stories filtering out about how these guys had spent years preparing. The pilots had been in the country for two years. Atta and the other pilots attended flight school. Only Atta received his FAA certification. But when the big day came, he almost missed his flight. That fascinated me, because it didn’t fit with the widespread media narratives about how we’d been attacked by a group of evil geniuses. When you get into the nitty gritty, here’s a guy who almost missed his flight. If he had actually missed that flight—I mean his life was going to be over if he made the flight—his life would have been over in a much more significant, much more severe way. Success offered the known result. Failure was the great disaster.