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An On V Literary Update

(To read the entire "War Memoirs" series, please click here.)

We haven’t written about post-9/11 war memoirs in a while. The good news is that I should have time to review some more memoirs (and novels!) in the coming months. But first, a few updates.

Iraq War Reading Pledge

I recently received an email from Gina Rodriguez, a NYC-based writer, asking me to get involved with the “Iraq War Reading Pledge”. The project--which is now over, since Iraq’s ten year anniversary happened a month ago--tried to get as many people as possible to commit to reading a memoir about the war in Iraq. (If you’d like to commit to this cause, head over to this link. You can follow Gina’s writing here.)

Gina asked me to recommend a memoir about Iraq. If you’ve read my series on war memoirs, you might know my reaction. Really? I don’t like memoirs. In short, by adhering strictly to the truth, memoirs lose narrative possibilities. (Unless the author fudge the facts, in which case they’re misleading the public.) Oh, and people don’t like telling the truth about their friends, which means characters become one-note and unrealistic. Unless they have an enemy, in which case, memoirists settle grudges.

So I can’t recommend a memoir, but I can suggest two works of recently released fiction...

Fire and Forget

Full disclosure: a few months ago, a publicist offered to send me a copy of Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, a new collection of stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I initially declined the offer because I didn’t think I had the time to read it. After I read the table of contents on Amazon, though, I changed my mind and asked for a copy.

As I wrote in my original reply, I was always going to promote this book. For one, its war fiction. More importantly, Matt “Kaboom” Gallagher, friend of the blog and one of the current generation’s best writers about the war, co-edited the book. I trust him and the collection he put together.

When I saw the authors who contributed stories, this thing instantly became a must read. Gallagher has a story in it, of course. So do Brian Turner--whose poetry collection Here, Bullet is flat out my favorite piece of writing inspired by either war--and Siobhan Fallon--who wrote the well-praised and soon to be read collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone.

So go find a copy of Fire and Forget. We’ll have a review soon.


In even more exciting news, a new war novel--yes, novel--by David Abrams, Fobbit, came out. Three reasons I’m going to read this book:

1. It’s a novel.

2. He stole my pitch, which is fine by me. I love, love, love this topic. Super FOBs are insane; the public should know more about them and they make an excellent literary topic.

3. It’s really well reviewed. The Washington Post: "A clever study in anxiety and an unsettling expose of how the military tells its truths." The New York Times Book Review: "I applaud David Abrams for sticking to his vision and writing the satire he wanted to write instead of adding to the crowded shelf of war memoirs. In Fobbit, he has written a very funny book, as funny, disturbing, heartbreaking and ridiculous as war itself." Newsweek: "A satire of comfortably numb life during wartime." The Boston Globe: "A delicious, unsettling read." Los Angeles Times: "an impressive debut".

Again, I’ll review this book as soon as I can.

(Actually, if I have to recommend some memoirs about Iraq, off the top of my head, I’d say The War I Always Wanted, Soft Spots and Kaboom.)

Remaking Moby

Friend of the blog Trish Harris recently reached out to me and Michael C asking us to get involved in a project called Remaking Moby, a new multi-media project for the Pea River Journal and Mixing Realities Digital Performance Festival where writers re-examine chapters of Moby Dick. We’ll be involved, but we also wanted to put the call out to our readers.

And finally, what everyone is breathlessly waiting for, Lone Survivor news...

Peter Berg Knows who we are!

So, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked Peter Berg this:

“There’s already an open letter on the Web asking you to not make this film [The letter says the book on which the movie draws from is too political, among other things]. Are you concerned about its reception?”

Berg responded dismissively, but at least reporters have started asking questions.

We now have a prediction. Next year, about this time, as Marcus Luttrell begins promoting this film, a reporter for a major newspaper will pick up this story. Like any controversy, it will help Lone Survivor get better box office numbers.

five comments

I read Fobbit and I liked it for about the 1st half. Then it got a little tiresome. It is really two books grafted together. Part of it is about fobbits and life on the FOB. The other half is about combat guys who go on and off the FOB, the drive by COINers so to speak. The touching parts are about the combat guys. I figure the author added that to the fobbit’s story because at the heart of it, how interesting can a fobbit’s life be? Speaking as a former fobbit, not very.

It is entertaining reading about the idiot goings on on a FOB but then it gets boring, just like living on a FOB. The parts about how the machine says things about what it is doing and how it is doing it seems true but it isn’t all that different from what seems to be an increasingly common pattern in all parts of American culture, everybody lies but not in such a way that they can be pinned down and everybody spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about that.

I think it would have been much better as a long magazine article, ala Esquire, the old Playboy or Vanity Fair. The life of a fobbit just isn’t that interesting.

I love Fire and Forget. The stories are tough, gritty, wow. I plan to teach that book in Winter 2014. Can hardly wait to see your response!

We are seeing so many really deep, thrilling responses to Moby-Dick already. It’s been surprising, though I realize now it shouldn’t have been, to see how many veterans find their voice and story in that novel. Thank you for the mention.

Have either of you read The Things They Carried?

Yes, and loved it, and taught it.

Trish, strange that Tim O’Brien never expected The Things They Carried‘s popularity among teachers. Sophomore year, I read the titular short story, which inspired me to buy the book. You and my former English teacher (I’m a junior.) would have quite the conversation. Have you read Going after Cacciato?

Eric and Michael, though neither of us can ‘recommend a memoir,’ historians might read one for primary-source potential. A bad memoir (and/or ghostwritten one) may accomplish more than a good one could.