Tom Junod (1958-)• American journalist• Won two National Magazine Awards• Has worked for GQ and now Esquire since 1997
The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama
• Esquire August 2012 • Discusses Obama’s use of Predator drones • Focuses on the death of two Americans • Written in 2nd Person (or in form of letter to President) - “You are...” - reframes to put reader his position. “You are a good man.You are an honorable man. You are both president of the United States andthe winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.You are both the most powerful man in the world and an unimpeachably upstanding citizen.You were proud that you were able to kill Anwar al-Awlaki.”
• Narrative from Obama - Killing is hard, • Junod raises a counterstory:“That killing individuals identiﬁed as our enemies isnt hard at all.That its the easiest thing humans — particularly humans in power — can do.”
The Rapist Says He’s Sorry • Published GQ, 1995 • Story of Mitch Gaff who raped two sisters, 14 and 16 in their home in 1984 • Often dark story, explores the grey areas of human heart • Junod says this piece changed his writing and life. http://gangrey.com/?p=1151
Structure • Junod included a reﬂective afterward, which describes his changing practice with this piece. • Introduces ﬁrst, the man, through his voice, then slowly builds up the image - alternating descriptive sections with anecdotes“The ﬁrst thing that strikes you about Mitch Gaff is his voice. It is a voice Mitch Gaff has put together—has devised and constructed—with great care, great courage, great effort, and at the cost of great pain”
• After two 20,000 word versions, he came up with the “This is a story of...” version which frames the moral questions. • Junod with editor David Granger - collaborative relationship: “If a story is about murder, you have to show the murder... if a story is about rape you have to show the rape” • Showed the rape from 3 perspectives 1. responsible “journalistic” point of view - voiceover 2. Mitch Gaff’s point of view 3. Victims point of view “This is a story about how hard it is to be good—or,rather, how hard it is to be good once you’ve been bad;”
Style • Junod uses repetition heavily in his writing. The reader gets a sense of immediacy. He is writing on the spot, about complex issues, that have to be described, and re-described. Framed, the re-framed. • Really clever wordplay - amazing to read. “Mitch Gaff is or has been a human being who hurts otherhuman beings for sexual pleasure: not out of need, but out ofwant - because he likes it. It’s the wanting that scares us the most, of course, because of what we know about our ownwanting—that it rises from someplace deep within us, that it is immune to intention and that it doesn’t just go away. We want Mitch to go away.”
The Author’s Voice • Does not so much proclaim, but raises questions • Paints one picture of Mitch, then destroys it with a graphic retelling from a counter perspective • Well researched, spent time with offender, victims, their families and authorities • We are left with observations of human nature through the author’s perspective (adopts ‘you’ again) - Mitch is cryingYour instinct is to reach out to him, to give him a hug, to offer him the comfort of a human hand on his shoulder… but you don’t. You don’t because of who he is, and what he’s done. He has to cry? Let him cry.
Author’s Reﬂection • Used to write complete ﬁrst drafts, and submit as-is - this story changed that (3 drafts) I still try to write perfect ﬁrst drafts; but in general “perfection” usually means drafts rendered lifeless by thepresumption of perfection, and the constrictions of structure. So I wind up writing fast, in fear and desperation andmounting self-loathing, until the death of the story allows it to live in a form different than the form I imagined and tried to impose.
Discussion (if time)• Observations of the human condition. Junod had objective and subjective views of Mitch Gaff - he could portray both sides, and the story is better for it• Imagine you are Junod - Interview as performance, what did Junod have to go through to gain his trust, what beliefs did he have to temporarily adopt?• I guess - how does one write ‘the truth’ of such morally grey subject?