1) I have nothing profound or new to add to this latest Wikileaks thing. It's long, accurately and contextually captures war as the worst thing humanity has to offer, and Julian Assange still looks like a lesbian from Seattle. Concurrently, my pal Andrew Exum sounds intelligent and convincing in this New York Times Op-Ed about it all, and I felt smarter and more informed after reading it. I suggest you do the same.
2) I've moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, mainly to be closer to grad school. I won't be changing the subtitle of the blog, predominantly because I love alliteration too much and couldn't think of anything equally catchy. I promise much of my social life still revolves around Brooklyn though, so I'm not a total fraud! And rants about yuppies are much more fun than rants about hipsters.
3) I've just now discovered the band Animal Collective. I know I'm late to the party, but I was deployed when they made it big, so my indie cred card remains in the wallet. (So says my indie cred card dealer, at least.) If you're looking for new alt./indie music, give them a shot.
4) My Kaboom speech from Politics & Prose in DC will air this Sunday (August 1) on Book TV, channel CSPAN-2, at 4pm and 11pm. Link to follow after it airs. If you have friends or family holding out on my book because CSPAN hasn't covered it yet, make them watch!
5) I don't know why more people don't die by poorly-installed air conditioners plummeting to the ground from apartments in the sky. It's a good thing I'm strong like bull, because that experience is not nearly as easy as it should be. Good Allah.
6) Some of my former soldiers currently deployed assure me it's hotter in Iraqistan than it is Stateside. Who am I argue? God bless them, and I treasure every email and Facebook message that tells me they're bored out of their minds. They've done enough. FOB on gentlemen, FOB on!
7) Weddings are wonderful celebrations of love and life. I'll be attending my fifth of the summer this weekend. I'm sick of them, as they hemorrhage money for all involved and inevitably cross that authentic/contrived cheese line for all involved except for those participating in said infraction. And let's face it, at best, they only have a 50% chance of working out, nowadays. It's the life equivalent of signing Ron Artest or Terrell Owens to a multiyear, guaranteed contract.
Now. Other GWOT-related books I've enjoyed. Here's a short list. I preface this by saying that yes, I've read a lot of what is out there, both to educate myself and out of pure curiosity. And sure, I keep up on the topic now to scope out the competition. Also, understand that I lean towards writings and works that trend toward "different," not an easy thing in the murky wilds of modern war tales. So, if I hurt feelings or forget/snub a particular book, I assure you all, it's unintentional. As my family can attest, I've always been a bit of a literary snob, but never a willful asshole. (Wait?! A writer that easily casts judgment on others, but comes across as hypersensitive with his own work? Say it ain't so!)
My Unofficially Official GWOT Reading List:
1) Evan Wright's Generation Kill. It's popular in COIN, Defense, and literary circles to hate on this book, but I say, "Shenanigans!" It covered the invasion from a rock 'n roll perspective, and judging from those I've talked to who invaded/were invaded, it deserves such a take.
2) Tom Ricks's Fiasco and The Gamble. More definitive accounts of the Iraq War may follow, but they haven't come out yet, and probably won't for quite some time. Personal favorite memory of Fiasco: Lt. Colonel Larry chewing out a Troop Commander for reading it in Iraq, presumably because of its "negative" title. Personal favorite memory of The Gamble: reading it right after we returned from Iraq in March 2009, and it explaining a lot of the bigger picture. Lots of "oh shit!" moments for then-Captain G.
3) Exum's This Man's Army. Not only did this book pave the way for junior officer memoirs in our era, it proves that smartass, ironic writers can grow up and do bigger and better things for their country. Ex and his book give me hope that my writing and/or academic and/or life career didn't peak last April.
4) David Bellavia's House to House. The real fucking deal. Reading this book will make anyone who wasn't on the ground in Fallujah feel simultaneously grateful and inadequate.
5) Patrick Hennessy's The Junior Officers' Reading Club. Loaded with weird British quirkiness, but that's okay. Certain experiences and gripes are universal, and this book reminded me as I wrote Kaboom that war memoirs could be funny.
6) Colby Buzzell's My War. The best of the bunch, at least so far. As raw as the soldier's experience can be described. (In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Colby a friend as well, though we became drinking buddies long after I read his book and felt this way about his work. Real talk.)
7) Sebastian Junger's War. Here's my full review, over at the HuffPo. Junger accomplished what many thought impossible - bringing a war story home to a mainstream audience. Any American who cares should be thankful for such. This promises to make any and all definitive GWOT reading lists in the future.
8) Jim Frederick's Black Hearts. This book is not for the faint of heart (pun intended!). Simply put, it's depressing as hell. But it covers a story that needs to be told, and made the Iraq that my unit found in 2007 make a lot more sense. Also, it's journalism at its finest. Frederick's dogged research shines through.
9) Nick McDonell's The End of Major Combat Operations. McDonell arrived to Iraq just as my unit left, so I found this read especially interesting. It's a great blend of personal narrative and reporting, and comes from a different perspective than most of these other books, as this was his first major foray into something other than fiction. McDonell can write. And that's all that matters.
10) Paul Rieckhoff's Chasing Ghosts. Probably the best of any of the GWOT works that is, ehh, remotely "political." Anger is a wonderful tool to utilize when writing, and Rieckhoff harnesses it quite effectively. Much like Exum, it's fun to read this and see the future Rieckhoff (now head of the IAVA) develop.
Fuck. This list is totally sexist. I've heard good things about Kayla Williams's Love My Rifle More Than You, though I haven't read it yet. I'm also aware I left off some normal stalwarts on such lists. So it goes. Some were read and discarded, while some are on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up. Further, I'm also aware that all of these are non-fiction works. Well ... yeah. Luke Larson's novel Senator's Son is pretty good, and I've heard decent things about David Zimmerman's The Sandbox, but by and large, it's unlikely a definitive fictional work will be written about the wars until after they're over. Just the way it works; don't believe me, check literary history. Memoirs and journalistic accounts come out constantly and consistently, during and after wars, while fictionalized accounts take more time. But they also make a deeper impact. So let's hurry up and end these damn wars, I got epics to read!
What do you all think? What does this list, and subsequently my bookshelf, lack? What does it get right? I value feedback, just as my fiancee (ever the school teacher) taught me to. (Except for Kaboom haters. Fuck those simpletons. Hi-O!)