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An alienated generation: conversations with Evan Wright

April 5, 2009 |  1:28 pm

Evan Wright, author of "Generation Kill," talks to Scott Timberg for the LA Times about his new book, "Hella Nation: Looking for Happy Meals in Kandahar, Rocking the Side Pipe, Wingnut's War Against the Gap, and Other Adventures With the Totally Lost Tribes of America." It's a collection of articles, he says, about  "exiles from the mainstream of American culture."

Wright's first book was based on his time embedded with Marines in Iraq; in the pieces in "Hella Nation," he's mostly embedded closer to home, but in another sensetoo. He spends time getting intimate with his subjects, Hunter S. Thompson style, but he doesn't write about himself. "With few exceptions, my intent has always been to focus on my subjects in all their imperfect glory." Timberg reports for the Los Angeles Times:

This, he goes on, is the role of the journalist -- to inhabit the lives he or she writes about. "It's a powerful experience to merge with somebody," he says, comparing it to a science-fiction story in which a brain is put into another body.

Lately, Wright has mostly been inhabiting his own book tour. He appeared on KCRW's Guest DJ Project last week (at 11 minutes, not nearly long enough), playing Beck, Black Sabbath, jazz and the Sex Pistols. Buying his first Sex Pistols record, he says, "led to the total destruction of my life -- being kicked out of school. Punk rock just destroyed everything. And it was great."

He answered many questions about working for Larry Flynt's "Hustler" and "Barely Legal" from, of all people, NPR's Jacki Lyden (eventually, she got around to his current book). Starting Monday, he'll be one of the guest bloggers at the official blog of his publisher, Penguin. And at the end of the month, Wright will appear at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, on a panel on Sunday, April 26.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of Evan Wright by Stefano Paltera for The Times