The Funny World of Fashion and Terrorism

PhotoOver at The Economist, a Q & A with Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant:

POLITICS and fashion are not mutually exclusive interests—a person might pledge to ProPublica only to enjoy a slideshow moments later. In literature, however, they tend to make strange bedfellows. So it’s with great pleasure that we read Alex Gilvarry’s funny debut novel, “From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant”, which cleverly entwines these seemingly disparate fictional worlds.

All it takes is one error in judgment to sweep Boy Hernadez, a newly minted Filipino fashion designer, away from Bryant Park and into No Man's Land—Mr Gilvarry’s fictionalised Guantanamo. The book is a post-modern mash-up of Boy’s flamboyant confession, a reporter’s mocking footnotes and some false documents.

This book is a unique satire of the topsy-turvy times immediately following the September 11th attacks. Mr Gilvarry spoke to us about mid-aughts Manhattan, the post-9/11 novel and the hazards of certain proper nouns.

When did you begin writing the book?

I started the novel in 2006 when I was working as a production editor at Scholastic, a children's publisher in SoHo. On my lunch break I would see models going to and from their castings with their big portfolios—you couldn't miss them. I would see Marc Jacobs, because his studio is there. And I'd go to these fashion parties with my girlfriend for no real purpose. I was just observing. it was part of my world for a while, and I never knew what I’d do with it, but the people always fascinated me. I wrote after work, at night. I never knew I was going to write a novel. It started as a short story.