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Books on the Artistry of War

Photo of Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson


The research for my latest novel, Sparta, drew me in ways that were surprising and fascinating. I was raised a Quaker, and my father was the head of a Quaker school, who’d been a conscientious objector during WWII. But my new novel was about a Marine lieutenant, returning from the war in Iraq. So for the four years of research I found myself living in a world I’d hardly known about at all. I started by reading—memoirs and novels and nonfiction accounts of the war in Iraq and elsewhere. I became fascinated by the world of the military—how different it is from the civilian world, how differently it’s structured, and how powerful and compelling and complex and ancient it is. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough information about it. I read and read, and I went to veterans’ gatherings, and I interviewed veterans. I was caught up in the drama of a movement that was deeply connected to our lives, but which had nothing to do with them. I was struck by this fact—how separate the two lives are, and how impossible it seemed to be, to connect them. And I was struck by the way this seemed to have been true always, going back to The Iliad.

About the Author

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson is the author of nine books: five novels, including Cost; three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BookForum, Best American Short Stories, Tin House and elsewhere. She teaches in the Hunter MFA Program and divides her time between New York, Connecticut, and Maine. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. She was President of the Authors Guild from 2014-2017.