Alex de Waal, who taught McDonell at Harvard and is a recent contributor to Writers Read, told me that McDonell was with him "in Darfur in November... reading E.M. Forster's Passage to India in between [their] sojourns in the Arab nomads' encampments."
I asked McDonell about what he was reading in Africa and recently. His reply:
I was indeed reading A Passage to India out there, but left it in the hands of one Lt. Col. Moto on a dusty army base, and thus haven't finished it. I think the first half, at least, is some of the best writing I have ever read, fiction or non, about the colonial enterprise. And funny too, great awkward stuff with old British ladies accidentally wandering into Mosques and so on.Read more about McDonell's novels Twelve and The Third Brother at the publisher's website.
I just finished Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer, which describes the libel/fraud lawsuit brought by convicted murderer Jeff MacDonald against Frank McGinniss, who wrote a book (Fatal Vision) about his murder trial. Malcom's book dissects the relationship between journalist and subject and comes to absolutely horrifying conclusions. It manges to be a page turner and a book of moral philosophy at the same time. It's dense, elegantly written, and short, which I always like. Reminded me of Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, which I am re-reading as I try to write about the war criminals in Darfur. Also am enjoying Murakami's Kafka on the Shore before I go to sleep at night.