The first in my series of posts on The First Novel Experience was called "The Romance of Agents." A couple of people wrote me after it was posted and asked if I was going to include in this series any stories of any writers who'd had a bad time with their books. I thought about it and decided no – at least not yet.
David O. Russell hovers at the top of my list of favorite directors. He captures the messy collision of self-interests that for him defines America. In American Hustle, he whips up a black comedy based on Abscam, the late-'70s FBI sting that centered on a bogus sheik and led to the bribery convictions of sundry U.S. politicians. But he doesn't tell the real Abscam story; he adapts it to fit his theme, which is that most of us are busy reinventing ourselves and conning one another.
On Saturday, Army and Navy will take the field to renew their legendary football rivalry for the 114th time. The teams are playing in Philadelphia, which is also where they faced off in 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The players that year faced a sobering new reality: The nation was at war, and they'd soon leave the football field behind for the battlefield.
In his youth, Nelson Mandela cut a dashing figure. He was a revolutionary, an outlaw — by the early 1960s, he was living underground. And he had a nickname to match: he was known as the Black Pimpernel.