I live pseudonymously, though only by a sort of accident... born Joel Turnipseed, I am a writer, living in Minneapolis, and the author of Baghdad Express: A Gulf War Memoir (Borealis Books 2003; Penguin 2003). I have, in the meantime, acquired other identities: husband, father, neighbor, and guy absent-mindedly checking the shelves at the grocery store, by which I'm known as Joel Hernandez.
My life started in Duluth, MN in 1968 and has taken a number of curious turns. I went to a different school in a different city or state every year between kindergarten and 10th grade. After serving in the Marine Corps--and serving in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War--I studied philosophy at the University of Minnesota. I then spent a number of years working the writers' requisite waiting and temp jobs while trying to write my first book, before settling on technical writing and software development as a career. I started at software company at the worst hour of the Dot-Com Boom, in the fall of 1999, and miraculously sold it in the summer of 2002. After serving as Chief Technology Officer of the acquiring company for nine months, Baghdad Express came out and I quit my job for fifteen minutes of fame on Fox News, CNN, ABC Nightline, and seemingly every NPR affiliate in the country. In the meantime, I have taught or been a visiting writer at Morningside College, The University of Minnesota, The Loft, and Intermedia Arts. My writing has appeared in GQ, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, Salon.com and other journals and for several years I was a regular reviewer for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Rain Taxi. If you care about such things, I am a member of PEN Center USA and the National Book Critics Circle. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q : What's with the combat helmet?
A: Uh, didn't know what else to use as a header. Maybe I'll change it. But maybe not: Inscribing, on my flight to Saudi Arabia in the early days of January 1991, "KNOW THYSELF"--complete with peace symbol in the middle of the 'O'--on my combat helmet as I headed into war (along with a long passage from Thoreau's Walden) has become one of the signature acts of my life. Of course, stealing that same helmet from the Marine Corps was no small take-away in itself.
Q: Are you only going to write about war?
A: Hardly at all--at least on this blog. I'll mostly be writing about books and film and ideas, various obsessions, etcetera. A lot of my favorite blogs are of the "daily archive" variety: Kottke, Bookslut, Cursor... I'll do some of that, but a lot more of the 500-800 word essay--or "attempt"--at some thought that's percolated up from my current writing projects or the news or some other thing that has surprised me into a writing mood. It may be daily, it may not--but I'll try to keep things going in a regular fashion here. I've also decided to transfer my reviewing energies to Hotel Zero, so you can look for a book or film review every couple of weeks. I may also start doing some short interviews with authors and editors of things I love to read. Best bet? Use the RSS feed to see what catches your attention.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A biography of famous Marine Corps General Smedley Butler--at one time the most decorated warrior in American History, and at another time the most vocal critic of the incipient "military-industrial complex." I had long known about him, and mention him briefly in Baghdad Express, but I later became friends with his granddaughter after doing a show with her on Pacifica Radio. He slowly became an obsession--one I hope to wrangle into a good book. I'm also working on a war novel set in Iraq. You spend six years in the Marine Corps and it eats its way into your soul. A lot of shit to work out there. And then, when you watch the news coverage of the war--or, in my case, sometimes become the news coverage of the war... eventually the urge to say something a little more nuanced, a little more timeless than a sound-bite just takes over. So, even though this blog isn't going to be a war blog, you could very definitely say that I'm "war obsessed" these days.
Q: I'm an author/publicist: how can I send you a book for review on your site? Or set up an interview?
A: I'm working on that. Should have a P.O. box set up this week. Alternatively, you can e-mail me at email@example.com