friends Christopher Robinson, left, and Gavin
Kovite co-authored the novel "War of the
Encyclopaedists," about buddies whose lives
diverge after graduating from the University of
Robinson and Gavin Kovite, best friends and co-authors
of the debut novel "War of the Encyclopaedists"
(Scribner, $26), are a bit of an odd couple.
33, is a poet, a MacDowell Colony fellow and a Yale
Younger Poets prize finalist. Kovite, 34, fought in
Baghdad from 2004-2005 and attended New York University’s
law school. He is an Army lawyer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
until June, when he becomes a full-time author.
a recent interview, the two lobbed opinions back and
forth over beers, rarely coming to agreement: Has
technology changed more radically in the past 10 years
than in the prior 100? Is the Internet encyclopedia
Wikipedia an example of crowdsourced objectivity or of
majoritarian viewpoints winning out? Should they
describe their friendship as a "bromance?"
lanky Robinson looked the part of a poet, sporting a
plaid button-up and a beard shaved in vertical stripes.
He sat next to the stocky Kovite, who paired a casual,
off-white collared shirt with his military-style shaved
head and face.
of the Encyclopaedists" follows buddies Halifax
Corderoy (an academic) and Mickey Montauk (in the
military) as their lives diverge after graduating from
the University of Washington and drinking their way
around Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Corderoy
moves to Boston to study literature in graduate school.
In 2004, Montauk heads to Baghdad as part of the
National Guard, keeping a checkpoint in the Green Zone
secure. Messy relationships and existential questions of
their post-grad paths dog both characters, who stay
united by updating a shared Wikipedia page.
and Montauk, like their authors, are unmistakably
Seattle millennials. Robinson said they wanted to delve
into Seattle in the early 2000s, when the city and the
Internet were just beginning their explosive growth.
Everything was still fledgling in a new world of
information —even YouTube hasn’t been invented when
Corderoy and Montauk roam Capitol Hill.
said they chose to portray Seattleites from that period
partially "because it’s us." Robinson grew
up in Federal Way and Kovite in Bothell. They met while
attending the UW. Both live on Capitol Hill now, Kovite
with his wife, Molly.
Robinson added, the period of their book was also
inspired by the time "when the tools of
self-creation have been gifted to you like fire from
Prometheus." It was a turning point, Robinson said,
"when everything became all about everyone’s
subjective opinion, and that became the content we were
and Corderoy eventually leave Seattle for their higher
purposes. Corderoy might look like the typical
millennial of the couple, but Kovite said they wanted to
show Montauk as a military millennial, too.
talks about millennials as soldiers," he said.
"But who do you think is over there?"
authors said they wanted to raise big questions in
"a very unpretentious way," Kovite said.
Including plenty of absurdist humor.
"War of the Encyclopaedists," Robinson would
often lay down framework for character emotions, plot
events and themes. Next, they would separately write the
first drafts of chapters, then often trade, edit and
rework the chapters of the other.
collaborative writing process and a shared sense of
humor melded their styles into one voice over the 4 1/2
years of making the book, they said.
429-page novel races, thanks to its accessible emotional
depth. The distorted Wikipedia page tracks Montauk and
Corderoy’s peaks and valleys with a poetic eye that
warrants a deeper, careful reading that Corderoy and
Montauk themselves might mock (or laud) depending on
their mood. The New York Times review noted that the two
have "written a captivating coming-of-age novel
that is, by turns, funny and sad and elegiac — a novel
that leaves us with some revealing snapshots of America,
both at war and in denial, and some telling portraits of
a couple of millennials trying to grope their way toward
next for the pair: Kovite and Robinson will continue
their unique arrangement while embarking on their next
book (they plan to set it in Detroit) as a full-time
job. They haven’t found answers to all their
millennial questions, but the fun was in the telling.
want people to be happy," Kovite said. "If
people read [our book] and like it ... that’s really
important to us."
much, they can agree on.