the real Eldorado is still further on

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment


The first thing I did after I heard about the highly classified NSA PRISM program two years ago was set up a proxy server in Peshawar to email me passages from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. A literary flight of fancy. I started sending back excerpts from Gerard Manley Hopkins poems.

The cantankerous Seymour Hersh was my inspiration. He had told me about the program in a clipped expletive-filled summary in the summer of 2011: “They’re scooping fucking everything, man! Phones, Internet, the whole works.”

I didn’t exactly believe him. He had also told me in 2008 that the Bush administration was close to authorizing airstrikes on Iran. So I treated his new pronouncement as a possibility, a sign from a questionable but often accurate oracle. I had wanted to rebel. The idea of esoteric poetry and prose in the NSA’s vaults appealed to me. “Yes,” I said to myself. “Yes I will.” And so I set out to tell Joyce’s story of a Chapelizod family, in a new way.

I acknowledge now, of course, that the venture was not the wisest idea. Certainly after I was indicted I regretted the hoax. My wife has had her regrets, too. Signing over your house to a law firm is a humbling experience, and for my wife, a clarifying one.

I will not acknowledge, however, that my actions were illegal. I admit only that the idea was pretentious.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Pavlina Tcherneva

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