“I’m pretty pumped,” Nicholas Kulish (left) says over the phone Friday morning as he’s preparing to leave for Berlin, where he’ll be the new bureau chief for the New York Times. “This is the job I’ve always wanted, since back in college.” And, for Kulish, it’s a return to the city where he did much of the writing for his recently published Iraq war satire, Last One In, working off a Fulbright grant in the gap between leaving the Wall Street Journal and joining the Times as an editorial writer two years ago.
Kulish freely admits that his own experiences as an embedded journalist for the Journal during the invasion of Iraq weren’t much like those of his novel’s protagonist, a disgraced gossip reporter for a New York tabloid who’s sent to the frontlines because he happens to share the name of an incapacitated war correspondent. “Being with the helicopter squadron was really different,” he explains. “We flew in, we flew out. But I took tiny things from my experiences, and those of other journalists I worked with while I was there.” So far, the reponse has been positive—”I haven’t gotten any enraged emails yet”—and the novel recently went back for its fourth printing.
Once he reaches Berlin, Kulish won’t actually be spending much time in the city, as the Times gig bascially has him covering all over Eastern Europe down to the northern border of Greece. Not that he’s worried; in fact, he welcomes the travel: “Berlin is a city filled with young artistic people who don’t have to go to work,” he quips, “so I’m a little anxious about being the only person I know there with a 9-to-5 job.”