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Eric Fair, photo by Amy Cramer

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NYS Writers Institute,Thursday, April 20, 2017
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Campus Center Room 375, Campus Center
, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Clark Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center,
Downtown Albany


Eric Fair will read from his memoir Consequence at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 in the Clark Auditorium, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center in downtown Albany. Earlier that same day, at 4:15 p.m. in Room 375 of the Campus Center on UAlbany’s Uptown Campus the author will hold an informal seminar with audience discussion.  Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Friends of the New York State Library. Fair’s appearance is also sponsored in conjunction with Albany Pro Musica’s performance of The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins, on May 6, 2017, 7:30 p.m. at EMPAC. (See www.albanypromusica.org/concerts for ticket information.)

Eric Fair
, an Army veteran, worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in 2004.  His 2012 Pushcart Prize-winning essay “Consequence,” which was published first in Ploughshares and then in Harper’s Magazine, detailed some of his experiences. Fair expanded the essay into his 2016 book, also titled Consequence. Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Sebastian Junger referred to the memoir as “both an agonized confession and a chilling expose of one of the darkest interludes of the War on Terror.” Junger further remarked that “only this kind of courage and honesty can bring America back to the democratic values that we are so rightfully proud of.” Kael Weston of The Washington Post saw the book as candidly offering an “overdue reckoning…[with] an atrocity measured in maimed Muslim bodies and minds—and the associated moral injuries to U.S. service members….No other book guides readers so honestly and so succinctly through this grim chapter in U.S. history.”  Poet and nonfiction author Nick Flynn also noted the book’s singular quality in his observation that it provides “a glimpse into the inner workings of someone who has been at the center of some of the most vexing issues of the past decade....Artful, understated, surprising.... We have read a lot about war lately, but we have never read anything like this.”

There is a single, stark truth that Eric Fair has had to publicly disclose: “I was an interrogator at Abu Ghraib. I tortured.”  Fair has arrived at his own definition of torture.  As he explains in his New York Times Op-Ed column, his definition emerged not from the specifications of enhanced interrogation, the “approved techniques….guidelines….rules,” but from a sense that grew as he and his colleagues, “spent the early months of 2004 implementing the country’s interrogation program….struggle[ing] to contain the growing sense that we had shocked our consciences and stained our souls.”  That definition, as shared in an interview with Democracy Now, was that “the very act of simply forcing a detainee to violate his own will through interrogation is, in my mind—is, in my mind, torture.”  Therefore whatever methods may have been legally sanctioned, for Fair and his colleagues there was no escaping that fact—to again quote his New York Times Op-Ed—“with every prisoner forced up against a wall, or made to stand naked in a cold cell, or prevented from falling asleep for significant periods of time, we felt less and less like decent men. And we felt less and less like Americans.”

Though brutally honest and complex, Eric Fair’s story is also distinctly American.  A starred Kirkus review described the author as “a devout Presbyterian who grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, attended Gordon College, a Christian school, and earned a degree at Boston University…. Fair enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995 out of a desire to protect people.” Years after his Iraq war experiences, haunted by the role he played in “enhanced interrogation,” and with failing health and a crumbling marriage, the writing of Consequence became the key to his survival.

NPR’s Arts Desk Correspondent Neda Ulaby highlighted the national significance of Fair’s book saying this “wrenching—and deeply moving—memoir provides a powerful reminder of how brutal circumstances can lead to an unexpected capacity for cruelty. It’s also a chance to confront our collective national shame. Consequence is one of those books that should be required reading for all Americans.”

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst