Barbara Adams in the Ithaca Times:
A former editor of The Paris Review and The Forward, Gourevitch has been a staff writer for The New Yorkersince 1997, writing essays and blogging on domestic and international politics, most recently on the Occupy movement and Syria. His 1998 book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the George K. Polk Award for Foreign Reporting.
Gourevitch’s most recent book (2008), Standard Operating Procedure (in paperback titled The Ballad of Abu Ghraib) was a collaboration with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line and Academy Award-winning The Fog of War).
Ithaca Times: How did your most recent book come about? And how did you work with the material?
Philip Gourvetitch: I’d known Errol for years and we’d occasionally discussed collaborating. In 2006, he started interviewing some of the soldiers [formerly stationed at Abu Ghraib] who either took photos [of soldiers and prisoners] or appeared in them. He sent me some interview transcripts first, and I was completely engrossed; these were the kind of voices from people deeply inside this thing, people we hadn’t heard from before. I was drawn by their voices – familiar, intimate American vernacular speech, with all the mindsets it carries.
Not long after that, Errol showed me some of his footage. “How are you going to fit all of this into a movie? I asked. “These are unbelievable stories.” So we decided he’d make his movie [Standard Operating Procedure] and I’d write a book – two takes on the same core material.