Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a freelance writer and a grad student at Yale. More of his writing is available at

Recent Articles

Korean Lit Comes to America

The country frets that it trails China and Japan, which have won literary Nobels.

AP Photo/The Christian Science Monitor, Ann Hermes
If, as an American, you visit a globalized megacity like Seoul, you’ll find plenty that feels familiar. Take chain bookstores: There’s bad lighting, as many smartphone accessories for sale as books, and sneaky customer habits. “I check out the covers,” says Claire, a young South Korean who’s showing me around. “If I like one, I go back to my apartment and buy it online.” Claire and I are ambling through the Kyobo Book Center in Seoul’s Gangnam district. Gangnam, of course, is the place PSY raps about in “Gangnam Style,” a song that sends up his country’s materialism and wealth. Gangnam is home to Samsung’s corporate headquarters, the city’s neon-saturated nightlife, and outposts for the top international brands, all spread out on a grid of spacious boulevards. It’s the polished, cosmopolitan Korea. What feels less familiar—more messy and alive—is the rest of the city. The streets twist and...

Country Noir

Flickr/Matt Carman
Flickr/Matt Carman One spring morning two years ago, a woman left her house—a small white one, its porch overrun by toys and exercise equipment—and dropped off her kids at the Sunman Elementary School. Sunman is a tiny town that spreads across the flat farmland of Southern Indiana. State Road 101 is the main drag, and the woman drove down it, past the IGA with its twin gas pumps, past the Family Dollar, past a bar named Louie’s, until she reached home. Stanley Short, her estranged husband, was waiting inside. When she entered, Short hit her on the head with a hammer, then bound her to a bed with zip ties and duct tape. He cut her shirt off with a carpet knife and raped her. After several hours the woman came up with an excuse for why they needed to leave. If she didn’t pay the electricity bill, the utility would shut off her power. With Short in the passenger seat, she headed back out on 101 until she spotted a group of men talking outside the Sunman Auction...

Drawn to the Mud

Jack Anderson's obsessive coverage of Nixon marked the beginning of our modern scandal culture.

Poisoning The Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and The Rise Of Washington's Scandal Culture , By Mark Feldstein, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 461 pages, $30.00 How To Become A Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior , By Laura Kipnis, Metropolitan Books, 208 pages, $24.00 In 1967, the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting unanimously recommended that the award go to the muckraking columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson for their expose of the financial chicanery of Thomas Dodd, a powerful senior Democratic senator. The prize instead went to two Wall Street Journal reporters for a story about gambling and organized crime that the members of the jury had not even read. The reversal by the Pulitzer advisory board created a scandal on top of a scandal. Newsweek , The New York Times , and the Associated Press all ran down the suspicious details, starting with the fact that the Journal had submitted its winning story in a different category (local as opposed to national...

Ghost Stories

How ghostwriting went from scandal-in-waiting to acceptable political reality.

(RP Films)
In October 2007 -- the same month that Random House emerged from a four-day auction with a $9 million deal for Tony Blair's memoirs -- Robert Harris published his sixth novel, The Ghost . It centers on a cynical, self-aware ghostwriter who must finish the memoirs of a former British prime minister. The PM, thanks to war crimes, waterboarding, and other timely plot points, is laying low in America, but Harris spends more time skewering publishers than politicians. He did his homework, interviewing real ghostwriters and pulling epigraphs from a handbook by "Britain's foremost ghostwriter," and his novel makes for some biting (if predictable) satire. No wonder Harris told National Public Radio, on the last day of his rather busy October, that he "just really was interested in this phenomenon of the ghostwriter." The main thing that interested NPR, and the novel's reviewers, though, was playing connect-the-characters with the Blair administration. The Ghost certainly allows for this...