NPR logo

Review: 'The Room And The Chair'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125030066/125030034" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Review: 'The Room And The Chair'

Books

Review: 'The Room And The Chair'

Review: 'The Room And The Chair'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125030066/125030034" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Washington newsroom elite and the government's deeply embedded secret intelligence agents — and the turmoil in contemporary Iran — all come together in a new novel, The Room and the Chair, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Washington Post staff writer Lorraine Adams.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Good fiction requires many things, and at the top of the list is drama. You'll find plenty of that in your average newsroom. Just ask Lorraine Adams, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Washington Post staff writer.

In her latest leap to fiction, she's taken the newsroom with her. Alan Cheuse has this review of "The Room and The Chair."

ALAN CHEUSE: I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I began reading Lorraine Adams' new novel. Was it a spy story? Was it a satire on the Washington Post?

The book open in the skies above Washington, D.C., when a female jet pilot on a training mission discovers that somehow, her plane has lost all its power. And after she ejects herself from the failing airplane, the scene shifts to the newsroom of a newspaper much like the Post, with all of its intrigues and agendas and power plays. That's the room of the book's title.

At first, the prose seemed off - too many staccato-like declarative sentences, making focusing difficult. Finding the story in the prose was a little like running with your shoelaces untied. But eventually, you figure out that there's a secret government report that the newspaper's prize journalist is sitting on, even as the paper is getting beaten on the story by its biggest rival. And it's somehow related to the jet accident in the opening scene.

Keeping your reader in the dark isn't exactly the same as portraying the darkness surrounding certain important events, but after a while, Adams' erratic prose rhythms smooth out, and you get caught up in this story that takes you beneath the news of the day and sideways to the news and ahead of the news into secret government conspiracies, the main one headed by an agent known as The Chair. And then on to the plains of war, and black light becomes sunlight, and what you see in a spy story is that same old, grand theme that Faulkner talked about: the human heart in conflict with itself.

SIEGEL: "The Room and the Chair" is a new novel by Lorraine Adams. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.