Notes from Evan Smith
"You don't have to be a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to believe that more than five years later, we still don't know nearly enough -- about what happened, about what should have happened but didn't, about who knew what when but didn't do nearly enough. Thanks to Lawrence Wright, however, we know a lot more than we ever did about the run-up to that horrible history-changing day. His sixth book, The Looming Tower, a 2006 National Book Award finalist, is a compelling and comprehensive narrative history of Al Qaeda's principals -- an insightful look into the backgrounds of Osama bin Laden and his loyal soldiers, the evolution of their worldviews, and the origins of their decision to attack America. For Wright, a 58-year-old native of Dallas and resident of Austin, the material required a return of sorts to his old stomping ground. Back in the early seventies, just out of Tulane University, he declared himself a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam and moved to Egypt, to teach English for two years at the American University in Cairo. It was his first trip to the region, which he quickly grew fond of, and his first experience speaking Arabic, which would be unexpectedly useful to him not only during this most recent period but also a decade ago, when he co-wrote an oddly prescient movie, The Siege, about attacks on America by Islamist terrorists. A staff writer for The New Yorker who once upon a time wrote truly memorable stories for a certain statewide magazine, Wright has always been, to my mind, underappreciated as a reporter and writer. He is truly among the finest journalists working today, and we here in Texas should be very proud to claim him as one of our own."
- Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 11.16.06