Kulish, Nicholas 1975-
Kulish, Nicholas 1975-
Born 1975, in Washington, DC. Education: Columbia College, B.A.
Home—Berlin, Germany. Agent—Marly Russoff & Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 524, Bronxville, NY 10708.
During early career, worked in the Internet industry in Hong Kong, China, and New York, NY; Wall Street Journal, Washington bureau, Washington, DC, staff reporter, until c. 2003; New York Times, New York, NY, editorial writer, c. 2004-07, bureau chief in Berlin, Germany, 2008—.
Fulbright fellowship, 2003.
Last One In (novel), Ecco (New York, NY), 2007.
Nicholas Kulish is a journalist who has worked for the Washington Post and New York Times. While on staff with the former, he was assigned as an embedded reporter covering the war in Iraq during the early phases of the conflict in 2003. For the few months he was there, he was assigned to a Marine helicopter squadron and witnessed some combat, though he has since noted that the war evolved into something completely different—and more dangerous—after he left. "I've read that the beginning was actually the safest time, before the proliferation of roadside bombs and suicide bombers," he told Up Close & Personal blog writer E.I. Johnson, adding: "I've seen no evidence that the war has made us safer."
Not long after returning home, Kulish quit his job with the Wall Street Journal to complete his first novel, Last One In. "When I quit the Wall Street Journal after the Iraq invasion," he related in an interview for Up Close & Personal, "a lot of people said I was making a huge mistake, taking a step backwards just when I could have moved ahead. I knew I wanted to write fiction so it wasn't that hard a decision. The pressure came after that, when I would have a bad day at the computer thinking, ‘I quit my job for this?’ That's when the regret can start to creep in. The only way to fight it is to be disciplined and keep writing because then it's worth it."
Kulish completed Last One In, a satire based on his own experiences. The novel is about a tabloid columnist named Jimmy Stephens who, through an odd twist, finds himself assigned to report on the Iraq War. Up until this assignment, he has been content to cover the smut and gossip of New York City for the Daily Herald. When he mistakenly accuses a movie star of having an affair, he decides to escape the consequences of his irresponsible actions by accepting the Iraq assignment. This chance is itself the result of a mistake, as Jimmy shares the name of a respected reporter who was recently killed in a car accident. Once in Iraq, Jimmy is a fish out of water. The soldiers he accompanies poke fun at him, and he is so terrified when he finds himself in an actual battle that he accidentally calls the Cable News Network (CNN) instead of his newspaper bosses and is caught on tape pleading to be allowed to return home. In the end, Jimmy manages to leave Iraq, a much-changed person and reporter.
Kulish has noted that he is a fan of Joseph Heller's famous satiric war novel Catch-22, as well as of British satirist Evelyn Waugh, although he commented to Melissa Block in an All Things Considered interview that when he started the book he "had never actually read ‘Scoop,’" a Waugh novel that bears some similarities to his book. Some critics have observed echoes of Heller in Last One In, with Christopher Buckley offering a "minor criticism" in the New York Times Book Review that some soldier characters were reminiscent of those in Catch-22. But Buckley, referring to the main protagonist in Heller's book, added: "The best moments in the book, indeed, have a Yossarian feel to them, echoing the justifiable cowardice of the hero of Heller's masterpiece." Kevin Clouther commented in Booklist, "At his best, Kulish brings the authority of truth to the awful banality of war." While a Kirkus Reviews critic found the coincidence of Jimmy's sharing a name with a real reporter to be "unlikely," the reviewer called Last One In a "compelling first novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2007, Kevin Clouther, review of Last One In, p. 20.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Last One In.
New York Times Book Review, August 4, 2007, Christopher Buckley, "Our Man in Iraq, Embedded Unhappily."
Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2007, review of Last One In, p. 60.
Nicholas Kulish Home Page,http://www.nicholaskulish.com (January 8, 2008).
Up Close & Personal,http://eijohnson4u.blogspot.com/ (May 24, 2007), E.I. Johnson, interview with Nicholas Kulish.
All Things Considered (radio broadcast transcript), July 11, 2007, "Hapless Hack Covers War in Iraq in ‘Last One In.’"