The Atlantic Ocean
Reports from Britain and America
Reflections on topics from war and crime to pop culture, in “a stunning collection . . . from the best essayist of his generation” (The New York Times).
For more than two decades, Andrew O’Hagan has been publishing celebrated essays on both sides of the Atlantic. The Atlantic Ocean highlights the best of his clear-eyed, brilliant work, including his first published essay, a reminiscence of his working-class Scottish upbringing; an extraordinary piece about the lives of two soldiers, one English, one American, both of whom died in Iraq on May 2, 2005; and a piercing examination of the life of William Styron.
O’Hagan’s subjects range from the rise of the tabloids to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, from the trajectory of the Beatles to the impossibility of not fancying Marilyn Monroe—in essays that are “stupendously unflinching, bursting with possibility” (Booklist, starred review).
“A brilliant essayist, [O’Hagan] constructs sentences that pierce like pinpricks.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Award-winning Scottish novelist O'Hagan (The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe) brings together pieces previously published in Granta, the Guardian Weekend, the London Review of Books, and the New York Review of Books. A brilliant essayist, he constructs sentences that pierce like pinpricks. He recalls the emotional confessions elicited by his first published essay, from 1993, about the killing of two-year-old James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys; the original essay (included here) segues into a chilling confession of his own boyhood bullying: "Torture among our kind was fairly commonplace." After the July 7, 2005, London bus bombs he thinks, "In this seat, would it be a leg I'd lose, or an arm?" Sailing the ocean blue to write about Americans (such as Lee Harvey Oswald, William Styron, and James Baldwin), he dissects In Cold Blood and concludes: "It is clear now he invented whole sections.... None of it happened as Capote wished it had." Eye-tracking O'Hagan's observations on everything from Internet "mob tactics" and Marilyn Monroe ("Marilyn blew in like a snowdrift") to 9/11, one finds bright flashes of critical insights and trenchant thoughts embedded in dark synaptic cobwebs of anguish, grief, and memory.