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He did give us a story but we still owe him a shed

Posted on 28 September 2010

He did give us a story, but we still owe him a shed.Are you a religious man?Charlotte Wood, LondonMost of my siblings and I stopped believing when we were around 14. The other, more immediately perilous danger: Capri pants for men.Which writers would you love to commission for McSweeney’s? And what would you do to get them?Jan Noble, NewcastleSaul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Lorrie Moore, Donald Barthelme The last guy is dead, but the others would be welcome I’d build a shed for any of them. I’ll tell you in another few years.What is the greatest threat facing the human race today?Sasha Lubov, by e-mailI believe that we’re irrevocably messing up the environment to the point where our grandchildren will have to wear head-to-toe Mylar suits and goggles and will bathe in butter and lime or something So that’s one threat. This has to change.Where does non-fiction end and fiction begin?Alexandra Elliott, LondonI’m just now learning that distinction. Thus far, there have been no consequences to the government’s actions.

And the government in Khartoum needs to be subject to sanctions – including an arms embargo, which, incredibly, isn’t in place yet – and they should only be lifted when the militias are disarmed or recalled. We need a peacekeeping force to protect the internally displaced people. My interest in Sudan started when I read about the “Lost Boys” – the name that aid workers gave to the young survivors of a 1,000 mile trek to escape civil war in Sudan – and then I met Valentino Achak Deng, one of those boys, and the subject of my biography, through Mary Williams, the founder of the Lost Boys Foundation in Atlanta.As for Darfur, what’s needed is international pressure on the government in Khartoum – they have responded quickly to such pressure in the past, but given the US’s overextension elsewhere, European help is needed. What drew you to the topic? And what should we be doing about Darfur?Alison Quigley, Bexhill-on-SeaOn Sudan, the US has actually been far ahead of other nations. It seems like only a handful of African countries and the US are actively involved in brokering peace in Sudan. One definite fudge: were we singing a Journey song at the beginning of Chapter 2, driving along the coast on that particular day? I can’t be sure. It might have been REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Styx, or even Foghat.

How can we know? We will never know such things.I understand that you are writing a book about Sudanese refugees. I think we’re truly living in a nightmare of his making.Own up to something in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that wasn’t quite true.Karim Jones, LondonI wrote a whole appendix a few years back that explained all the stuff I had to fudge to make the book sensical and under 1,200 pages Mainly, much time compression had to be done. I went with a friend, and we did find it hard to give wads of cash to some people Some were very appreciative, some very confused. Not sure we healed anyone, but the point was to make some kind of contact, and I do think some of the people benefited from being handed $500 or so.Who will you vote for in the US presidential elections, and why?Jim Gould, by e-mailKerry, because Bush is the most dangerous and blindingly extreme President we’ve had in the past 100 years.

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