There's an interesting dispatch series of one of the 9/11 bombers who was an architecture student in Germany at Slate.
I have my own strong feelings about the question of genius in literature. I've always felt that if we look at the past century, Nabokov was a game-changer, as the academic phrase has it. Nabokov showed there is a place you can go, a place that the alchemy of words can transport reader and writer to, that no one had gone before. And Nabokov went there, with ease, inLolita and Pale Fire. So it's hard to call any other writer in the past century a genius of the same order. Which in part accounts for my ambivalence about the decision to publish, against his wishes, an unfinished draft of his last incomplete work, The Original of Laura: No one was more aware than he of when a work of his had reached its zenith of genius. He didn't feel this one had. Perhaps, though, we'll learn some valuable lessons about the degrees of ascent to genius. Is it all or nothing?
I'd say the only work of genius in the past half-century to come close may have been Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. (Gravity's Rainbow was to be his Ulysses but turned out to be his Finnegans mistake.)
Maybe genius must give the feeling of effortlessness as well as utter confidence and transcendence. Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow both show the palpable sweaty strain to become encyclopedic works of genius: Always screaming across the sky: "This is a work of genius!"