Ackerman is based out of Istanbul, where he has covered the Syrian Civil War since 2013. His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. He is both a former White House Fellow and a Marine, and has served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ackerman's reply:
I’ve been meaning to buy some new bookshelves for a while now, as mine are full. So for about the past nine months I’ve been placing everything that I read on the side of my desk into these perilous stacks. Glancing over to the books balanced on the top, the first title that catches my eye is the American edition of Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías. Set in Madrid in 1980, it is a novel centered around a broken, even contemptuous marriage between Eduardo Muriel a once successful filmmaker and his wife Beatrice. When Muriel takes on a young assistant, Juan de Vere, to help him with his latest project, the central conflict within the marriage is slowly revealed. It’s a brilliantly observed book, which is at times sad, beautiful, and quietly suspenseful.Visit Elliot Ackerman's website.
Next down the stack is The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam, a slim novel that takes place over a single day in war torn Sri Lanka. As government forces march to eradicate a group of civilians in Tamil-rebel held territory, death stalks the inhabitants of a small village and before it comes an old man wishes to marry his daughter Ganga to a stranger, a boy named Dinesh. The novel is tightly structure and its passages are simple and beautiful, just like the idea of the brief marriage it chronicles. I loved this book.
Beneath Arudpragasam’s novel is A Confession by Leo Tolstoy, which chronicles a midlife existential crisis by the iconic author, which led him to consider suicide before becoming a devout Christian. All of this occurred after his masterworks War and Peace and Anna Karenina, at a time in his life when writing had lost much of its meaning and he began to wonder, as he put it, “If God does not exist, since death is inevitable, what is the point of life?” The journey Tolstoy takes to find “the point of life” is a fascinating one that’s worth revisiting.
My Book, The Movie: Dark at the Crossing.
The Page 69 Test: Dark at the Crossing.