by Jim Ridley
Lawrence Wright caused a sensation earlier this year with his epic New Yorker investigative piece "The Apostate," a nervy inquest into the secrets of Scientology and Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis' split from the fold. (Bet the New Yorker's legendarily rigorous fact-checking department had fun with that one.)
But if you've never read The Looming Tower, Wright's exploration of the roots of Islamic radicalism that led to the Sept. 11 attacks, you haven't just missed one of the most gripping nonfiction books of the decade. You've missed a work that makes sense of a world that seemed to have come unhinged. Wright honed his chops in Nashville in 1971 at the now-defunct Race Relations Reporter before moving on to a distinguished career as a journalist and nonfiction author.
Wright returns to Nashville, appropriately enough, on Sept. 11 for a two-night reflection at Vanderbilt on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. On the 11th, he'll deliver a talk on The Looming Tower and the changes wrought over the past 10 years. The next night, he will host the first Nashville screening of My Trip to al-Qaeda, the 2010 film version of his one-man show about the conflicts he faced researching and writing the book. The HBO production is directed by acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside).
Both events are free and open to the public.