I re-read this in anticipation of seeing the film.
What can one say. The saga continues. The best aspect of this for me was the characterization of ado...moreI re-read this in anticipation of seeing the film.
What can one say. The saga continues. The best aspect of this for me was the characterization of adolescence. I thought she hit a home run with that. Harry is a flawed hero, more than willing to take a short cut to help his grades, even if that means possible corruption. Ron and Hermione play sexual tennis, both wanting the other but neither able to take a direct approach. Harry is interested in Ginny, but takes a very Peter Parker role at the end in rejecting her for her own safety. The identity of the Half-blood prince is revealed at the end and provides a nifty twist. We are also strung along with the question of whether Snape is or isn’t working for the dark side.
Is Dumbledore really gone, or has he found a way to preserve a portion of his soul by arranging his own death? There are talismans that are left unanalyzed that will no doubt provide the roots of the final book. It was a very enjoyable ride in the classic series of our time.
A small pet peeve is that I think poor Ron deserves better than to be the ever-present comic relief.(less)
The excellent series takes a step up and into a darker world as Harry must wonder if the escaped prisoner is coming for him, while coping with new, so...moreThe excellent series takes a step up and into a darker world as Harry must wonder if the escaped prisoner is coming for him, while coping with new, soul-sucking opponents. Rowling continues to impress as both she and Harry mature.(less)
In 1793 ten-year-old Tabitha is smitten with the idea of the sea. Her father, John, an erstwhile pirate and soldier in the Continental Army, owns a sh...moreIn 1793 ten-year-old Tabitha is smitten with the idea of the sea. Her father, John, an erstwhile pirate and soldier in the Continental Army, owns a shop in Beaufort, NC. Tab’s affection for the maritime may have to do with her mother, Helen. John and Helen had eloped, over her father’s objections, and sailed together under a black flag. But her father’s tales are all Tab has of her mother, who died giving birth to her. When she contracts yellow fever John is desperate to find a way to help his daughter.
…to save her from the graveyard he must take her to the sea. He took her mother once, and being on the water only made her bloom.
They board a ship bound for Bermuda. This does not sit well with her grandfather, who believes her chances are best ashore, and well prayed over. Asa owns a plantation, producing turpentine from considerable stands of pines. A religious sort, he is hell-bent on making sure that his legacy is carried forward. When his wife died in childbirth, he focused that need on his daughter. But his attempts to root her to his land failed when she fell in love with John, a man of not much family, but an excellent heart.
The story is told in three parts, beginning with Tabitha’s struggle. Part two goes back to Asa raising Helen, giving her a slave, Moll, for her birthday, and the complicated relationship between Moll and Helen. While the comparison falls very short, both Moll and Helen are chained to their roles in life. Both resent their restrictions. But only Helen can actually act on her desires without being scourged for it. Asa is chained to his land and his attitudes, unable to see past what is to what might be, and unwilling to see beyond self-serving adages to what is right, to ever loosen himself from his own bindings.
Part three returns to John and Asa, Moll, and her son, Davy. It goes into how each of the primary characters ultimately copes or tries to cope, with the challenges of their lives, their losses, and chances.
Katy Simpson Smith has more than enough background for undertaking a look at America in the late 18th century. Before she returned to school to get her MFA, she completed a doctorate in history, and has published an examination of motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, which covers the period on display in her novel.
It was a hard knock life for women in late 18th century America. Not only was the risk from childbirth far greater than it is today, even past that life-threatening event women were treated as chattel. Not to the same extent as actual slaves, but to a significant degree.
He [Asa] had a possessiveness in him that encompassed his house, his land, his women
And he would use marriage as a way to shackle both his daughter and her slave to his land. And what of the reverberations of the lot of females to those around them? Increased peril for their children, for one. Strained existence for their survivors, both emotionally and materially. And various forms of torment as the storms that rise from imprisonment bring forth dark gales. Parents are taken from children and children are taken from parents by the foolishness of custom, the limitations of ignorance and the blind eye of fate.
Thematically there is a lot going on here. Property views figure large. Asa considers Helen a form of property and takes as little heed of her wishes as he does of those of her slave, Moll. Marriage and choice come in for some consideration. Within that larger theme, both Moll and Helen confront the conflict between who their respective owners want them to marry and what they want for themselves.
“I wouldn’t mind if I had some say in who I laid down with.” [says Helen’s slave, Moll] Helen nods. She puts her chin in her hands, nodding. People want what isn’t given to them. And this is not sin, but hope. What if God didn’t put us here to accept, but to struggle? Isn’t love itself built on that precise impossible hope?
It is also clear that love is not always allowed to be the greatest consideration in choosing a mate, or to define one’s relationship with a mate after the marriage is made.
“Do you miss your husband, Mrs Randolph?” He had died looking for free land in the frontier, shot through with a Cherokee arrow. His partner had buried him in the west and sent Mrs. Randolph his musket and his spectacles. The gun she keeps hung behind her cabin door, where all the little Randolphs know to find it. “I mostly miss the money he brought in, to speak frankly. He was a good father to the little ones and did well by us, but there’s something rather nice about one’s own life. Making decisions without someone to tell you ‘no, best not do that.’ He never thought I could do much for myself.” “We’re lucky to have you,” Helen says. “There’s no telling what all I can do without him, miss.
There is a tautness to this relatively brief novel. The concept of Checkov’s gun is well implemented. A beaten slave in one scene is employed relevantly in another. A notion of escape by boat is recommended and no sooner done than an actual boat appears. Sometimes this seemed a bit too neat. As is the bludgeoning irony of Asa freeing a panicked bird that is trapped in his house, while denying freedom to enslaved humans.
On the first page of the novel, John interrupts Tabitha’s request for more information about her mother.
He looks down the hall at the shadows whipping across the slats and holds a finger to his lips. “Can you hear any birds?”
This certainly gives one the notion that birds might be related to souls of the dead, or shadows. Could be something else entirely of course. Birds might be functioning as a sort of Greek chorus. In any case, you might want to keep this in mind as you come across the many bird references throughout the book. Land references abound as well, as wood is noted many a time, particularly pine, and flowers.
The writing in The Story of Land and Sea is beautiful, moving, and insightful. The story begins:
On days in August when sea storms bite into the North Carolina coast, he drags a tick mattress into the hall and tells his daughter stories, true and false, about her mother. The wooden shutters clatter, and Tabitha folds blankets around them to build a softness for the storm. He always tells of their courting days, of her mother’s shyness. She looked like a straight tall pine from a distance, only when he got close could he see her trembling. “Was she scared?” “Happy,” John says. “We were both happy.”
There is plenty more where that came from.
The Story of Land and Sea is set to launch on August 26, 2104. This is one boat you won’t want to miss.
Review posted – June 6, 2014
Publication dates – 8/26/14 – paperback, e-book, kindle, Audio CD
The book opens with an abridged version of an Isaac Watts hymn about the joys of heaven offering one a reason not to fear death. It seems an odd intro, given that the focus in the tale is, to a large degree, about the impact of death on those left behind (no, not in the Tim LeHaye way) with no assurance of a heavenly reward waiting. Perhaps it was intended ironically. In any case, the hymn is beautifully set to music by Red Mountain Music here.
GR pal Wanda recommended this one to me (Thanks, Wanda) It is not a book, but an article, so I was able to cruise through it in a sitting while still...moreGR pal Wanda recommended this one to me (Thanks, Wanda) It is not a book, but an article, so I was able to cruise through it in a sitting while still managing to get my actual paying-job-work done.
It is an outstanding, incisive and detailed look at current, historical and potential issues centering on Afghanistan once NATO vacates. It is rich with not-at-all-obvious information (for example, China's interest in mining Afghani minerals, Karzai's relationship with Pashtuns) and definitely will smarten your sense of what the area is all about. If you have a little spare time, I would give it a go. It is very readable. It is must-read stuff for anyone interested in the politics of the region.
Hi, welcome. I’m happy to see you are settling in to read this now. But…what?...really?…please…ignore that chirp that just told you a new e-mail arriv...moreHi, welcome. I’m happy to see you are settling in to read this now. But…what?...really?…please…ignore that chirp that just told you a new e-mail arrived. It is probably just another add for Viagra or penile enlargement. It is almost never something critical, so…hey…come back. Son of a bitch. (Taps fingers on desk, plays some solitaire, checks watch) Ah, you’re back. Took long enough. Geez. All right, can we get back to it now? You remember? The book is A Deadly Wandering, a pretty amazing look at attention, the demands on it, how it functions, how it is being compromised, and what the implications are for some aspects of that. Stop, no, do you have to answer the phone now? Can’t it wait? (sighs loudly, checks e-mail on a separate screen; weather.com lets us know upcoming conditions in another tab; who is pitching for the Mets tonight?) Oh, you’re back, sorry. Been there long? I must have wandered off. Focus.
I know a little bit about distraction. My job entails constant blasts of it. I work as a dispatcher for a security company. I have a dozen or more sites checking in every hour to make sure our guards are not sleeping (or that they know how to set the alarms on their cell phones). People call asking for their schedules. People call at 2 in the morning to let us know they will not be showing up for their 6am shift. They call because they just turned the wrong way and the cell phone in their pocket somehow redialed the last number they’d called. They call at 4am to let us know they will not be coming in for their 6am shift. They call asking for direction when there is some event at their site that requires handling. (This does go on for a bit, so rather than inflict on you the horrors of my typical work night, I will leave a full viewing for the intrepid and tuck a chunk of it under a spoiler label)(view spoiler)[Our clients call, sometimes asking for emergency ASAP coverage in diverse places across the continent, sometimes to add ridiculous increases to the number of guards they want for a morning shift at a large institution. Our security guards call to ask if their check is at the office, or to inquire as to why the totals on their checks did not match what they expected. They call to let us know they have arrived at their post. They call to let us know they have clocked out for the day. They call at 5am to let us know they will not be in for their 6am shift because they have a newly discovered “appointment.” There are many, many calls. It makes it damned tough to keep a log of all the calls, particularly when half a dozen arrive at the exact same moment. It makes it tough to prepare the multiple reports of overnight activity, all of which have to be transmitted during the busiest time of the morning. In the middle of this, the boss comes in, drops papers on my desk and asks when this or that person arrived at or left from a post sometime in the last week or so. For someone who is, shall we say, not comfortable with being interrupted, this presents some challenges. And it presents a real problem. I write the bulk of my reviews while at work. And to enter notes, do research on items, and then compose actual reviews of books during this time can be a bit difficult. Thoughts that have not made their way into a file are in constant danger of vanishing into the ether with the next barrage of incomings. I scream sometimes. (hide spoiler)] I frequently forget what I was doing before the latest set of calls. And, struggling to remember, I am interrupted yet again by the next set. The one good thing about this blitzkrieg of interruption is that I am not enduring it while behind the wheel of a ton-plus hunk of metal hurtling down the road at 60 mph. My sanity may be in jeopardy, (or long gone) but I present no existential threat to the rest of humanity. The same cannot be said for the main character in Richtel’s story.
By all accounts nineteen-year-old Reggie Shaw is a decent young man. A Mormon, he was eager to serve his community by preparing for and then undertaking an LDS mission. His first try had come up short, so he was back home, working until he could build up enough moral credit to try again. In September, 2006, while driving a Chevy Tahoe SUV, Reggie had his Cingular flip-phone with him and was texting with his girlfriend. A witness reported seeing him weaving across the center line multiple times. Finally, Reggie weaved too far. The results were fatal. Reggie came through ok but two scientists were killed as a result of Reggie’s texting, leaving wives and children to pick up the charred pieces of their lives and go on without their breadwinners, husbands, fathers. Reggie denied he was texting when the accident occurred.
Matt Richtel is a novelist and top-notch reporter. He won a Pulitzer for a series of articles, written for the New York Times, in which he detailed the national safety crisis resulting from increasing use of distracting devices by drivers. He has written a few novels and even pens a comic strip. There is nothing at all amusing, however, about the tale he tells here.
Matt Richtel - from his site
The core of A Deadly Wandering is how constant distraction, particularly while in a car, kills. Richtel looks at the case of Reggie Shaw as a prime example of how the distractions that have become embedded in our lives have unintended consequences. Richtel spends time with Reggie, with the cop who pursued the case when most officials wanted to brush it off and move on, the surviving family members, and a victim’s advocate who pursued prosecution of the case. Richtel also talks with several neuroscientists who have been studying the science of attentiveness. That material is quite eye-opening.
There are legal questions in here regarding where responsibility lies for such events, and how far communities are willing to go to punish violations and even to establish that such behavior is not permissible. Where does your freedom to act irresponsibly interfere with my right to stay alive? There are scientific questions about how the brain functions in a world that seems to demand multi-tasking. How does the brain work in dealing with attentiveness? What is possible? What is not? Where are the edges of that envelope?
When drug companies want to bring to market a product for public use, they must go through a significant review process to make sure their product is safe to use. Before auto manufacturers can bring a vehicle to market they must put it through safety testing.
But neither Verizon nor any other cellphone company supports legislation that bans drivers from talking on the phone. And the wireless industry does not conduct research on the dangers, saying that is not its responsibility - From - Dismissing the Risks of a Deadly Habit
And the corporations know what they are doing with their techolology.
If you take yourself back millennia, and you're in the jungle or you're in the forest and you see a lion, then the lion hits your sensory cortices and says to the frontal lobe, whatever you're doing, whatever hut you're building, stop and run. Well, here's what scientists think is happening in this data era, is that these pings of incoming email, the phone ringing, the buzz in your pocket, is almost like we get little tiny lions, little tiny threats or, let's say, maybe little tiny rabbits that you want to chase and eat, you get little tiny bursts of adrenaline that are bombarding your frontal lobe asking you to make choices. But these in some ways aren't these modern bombardments; they're the most primitive bombardments. They're playing to these most primitive impulses and they're asking our brain to make very hard choices a lot. - from the Terry Gross interview
In addition, and in a chillingly similar impact to other addictive substances, our communications technology knows how to make itself feel crucial to us.
when you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you hear a ring - you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline. So you're getting that more and more and more and more. Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You're actually conditioned by a kind of neurochemical response. - also from the NPR interview
Richtel follows Reggie’s story through to the end, at least for some of the players here. Laws have been changed. New knowledge has been gained. Responsibility has been allocated. Amends have been attempted. It is a moving tale. In addition, you will learn a lot about what science has found about how our brains handle multiple concurrent demands. You will learn about change in how distracted driving is being addressed by our legal system. But most of what you will get from reading this book is a chilling appreciation for what is involved in distracted driving. You might even be persuaded to switch off your phone the next time you get behind the wheel. At least I hope you are. I would like to live a bit longer and not be taken out before my time because someone was talking on the phone with their friend, texting with their significant other, or trying to order penile growth products from the road. I would like to live long enough to spend at least a few more nights screaming at the phone to stop ringing at work so I can get some writing done. That call you were thinking of making while in the car can wait. It really is a matter of life and death. A Deadly Wandering is must read material. Please, please pay attention.
The US Department of Transportation has a site dedicated to distracted driving. There are some interesting bits of information available there. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is an extraordinary novel, Macbeth in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
Wroblewski was very fond of the stories of Shakespeare as a kid, if not neces...moreThis is an extraordinary novel, Macbeth in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
Wroblewski was very fond of the stories of Shakespeare as a kid, if not necessarily the actual text, and it is clear that he carried with him the knowledge of tragedy. Edgar opens with a mysterious transaction in the Orient in which a man seeks out a purveyor of a particularly effective poison. That will feature large later in the story.
Edgar (Hamlet) is a boy born without the power of speech to a family (father Gar and mother Trudy) engaged in the business of raising very special dogs, so-called Sawtelle dogs. The author made up the breed. Edgar is accompanied by his faithful companion, Almondine, born only a short while prior to the boy. She is a wonderful character and I wish there was more of her in this book. She is Ophelia. Edgar is a hard-worker who manages to become quite adept at his dog training. It is his life. There is a mystical seer in the village, Ida Paine, who can be counted on to say some sooths. She is so spooky she is almost comedic, but her purpose is other. Finally, the household is joined by Claude (Claudius), John’s brother. He very much reminded me of Iago, and even a bit of Richard the Third as well as of his Hamlet inspiration. Claude and John never got on well, and we can expect more of the same even though they are teamed, for a time at least, in working the dog business.
This is one of the most moving books I have ever read. Edgar is an immediately sympathetic character, beset by malevolent forces and unable to make himself heard. While one can see early on that the Shakespearean DNA will lead to a dark place, the journey there is magical. Do not be put off by the impending troubles. There are triumphs as well as defeats in store.
Wroblewski was also very fond of Kipling’s Jungle Book as a kid and Edgar takes on the role of Mowgli as well as that of Hamlet. There is immense charm to accompany the danger when Edgar/Mowgli is afoot in the wood/jungle with his personal pack.
It is shocking that this is Wroblewski’s first novel. It sings with the language of a master. Read it aloud and hear for yourself. You will come to love Edgar, ache for Almondine, weep for some, smile at the kindness of a few, rage at others. This is not just another book, but an emotional engagement that brings with it the satisfaction of literary content and beauty of language. If you have not had the opportunity to travel with Edgar, seek him out and howl with joy and sorrow. This is a great, great book!
Links to the author’s personal website. His Twitter account does not appear to have been touched in a couple of years and I found no FB page by him. In his site, you might enjoy the tangents page, for a diversity of interesting information and links.
PS - Wroblewski will be returning to the North Woods in his next book, telling the story of Edgar's ancestors. Edgar took him ten years to write. I don't think the prequel will take quite so long, as he will, hopefully, have made enough money from Edgar to allow him to spend full time writing. I can't wait.
PPS - I happened across a very nice interview with Wroblewski on Bookbrowse.com
And. several years later, I stumbled upon this interview with Oprah
Sorry, read this one many years back and loved, loved, loved it. But it was long enough ago that I do not feel confident enough in my collander-streng...moreSorry, read this one many years back and loved, loved, loved it. But it was long enough ago that I do not feel confident enough in my collander-strength memory to post an actual review. (less)
When a man knows another man is looking for him He doesn’t hide.
--Frank Stanford, “Everybody Who is Dead”
Even death starts to look attractive when hope...more
When a man knows another man is looking for him He doesn’t hide.
--Frank Stanford, “Everybody Who is Dead”
Even death starts to look attractive when hope is gone. And the fittingly named Gravesend of William Boyle’s first novel is a place where hope is regularly interred. Conway D’Innocenzio and RayBoy Calabrese are in a race. The finish line is their own demise, and the contest is neck and neck all the way. Death comes in many guises. Conway’s big brother, Duncan D’Innocenzio, found his when a gay-bashing teenaged thug and his pals chased him into traffic on the Belt Parkway. RayBoy, the alpha asshole, did 16 years for the deed, but the RayBoy that was is no longer. Now he is looking to pay for his crime for real. Conway wants to kill him, which would seem a nice match. Only problem is that, after sixteen years of planning his revenge, letting his life waste away while he stewed, Conway can’t seem to pull the trigger.
The death-wish field here makes it seem more like a group outing than a pairs event. Ray’s nephew, Eugene, is a 15-year-old, wanna-be thug, with a limp, a misguided case of hero worship and a worse case of bad judgment. Alessandra, an actress back from the other coast to help take care of her widowed father, is one of the few main characters here who seem determined to stay alive. The old classmate she looks up, Stephanie, is the epitome of what it is to be trapped like a rat in the place where you grew up, and to internalize the incarceration.
This is not the well-heeled Brooklyn of the Heights, the Slope, Fort Greene or Boerum Hill. Not the trendy arts scene of DUMBO, not the hipster haven of Williamsburg, nor the post-apocalyptic deathscape of Brownsville. Gravesend is a neighborhood on the southern end of Brooklyn, working-class, ethnic, hard-scrabble. Like most neighborhoods in New York it watches as one immigrant group moves up, hopefully, and another moves in. It used be primarily Italian, still is, but things are changing. Not always for the better. Unfortunately, for some, they are not changing enough, and the only way up is to blast your way there or to leave entirely. The place has its share of gangsters and gang-bangers, dive bars and secluded, while public, spots for the exercise of what is usually private behavior. And the environment helps make these characters who they are.
The author was raised in a small town in Brooklyn, and now writes and teaches in Mississippi – “I see Brooklyn in new ways from here.”
Boyle has plenty of experience with working class Brooklyn life, having had a full measure, hailing from the County of Kings, Gravesend in particular. He communicates quite well the ironically small-town feeling that pertains in so many New York neighborhoods, where kids have only a slight image of what may lie across the bridges and tunnels in Manhattan, or pretty much anywhere in the wider world. I can affirm from personal experience that Boyle speaks truth.
Neighborhood as small town or not, is it possible to go home again? And would you really want to? Can one really get satisfaction from revenge? Or is it that, in the same way that depression is anger directed inward, revenge is self-loathing directed outward?
The writing here is taut. I would not say that Boyle’s text is a place where adjectives go to die, but they’re not bleeding over the edges of the pages either. The narrative movement is certain and consistent, moving towards resolution of the inevitable sort. Which is not to say there are no surprises. There are. The story is not a mystery, per se, but more a look at how place affects people. Rayboy was admired as a kid for his thuggish exploits, was found attractive by girls. Not exactly a disincentive. Homophobia was hardly unknown in the environment of his youth. His nephew Eugene, short on adult male models on which to base his vision of what being a man looks like, fixates on the one male he knows who was effective and respected.
While the bulk of the story is dark, there are some rays of light. Good can be found, although more in thought than deed. Hope digs its way back up to the surface, allowing for some second chances. Alessandra’s affection for a particular painting at the Met can be seen both as an artistic inspiration and an omen. Her participation in various forms of Manhattan life lifts her spirits. After all, she did manage to make it out to the west coast. But hope had better move quickly before another body lands on it. Stephanie latches on to Alessandra as a way out, but she may be too limited to make a go of that.
Most of the characters may not be the sorts you would want your children to marry, but they are very well realized. Boyle offers us abundant surface, but also scrapes plenty of layers away so we can see what is going on beneath.
My gripe with this book was definitely of the minor sort. The title, Gravesend, is particularly apt, suiting well the content, given the body count, whether from violence or less dramatic means. But Boyle wanders a bit in his native borough. If you are expecting a singular, focused portrait of this neighborhood, fuhgeddaboudit. The author gives us a look, for sure, but we also spend time in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Manhattan’s East Village, a small slice of Queens and even go for a couple of jaunts upstate along the Hudson, these reflecting the author’s personal NY geography, or a lot of it anyway.
It was fun to walk through so many places that are personally familiar, Nellie Bly, the promenade near the Verrazano Bridge, Xaverian High School under another name, subway stations, and so on. I also related to the Stephanie character, as one of the things that makes me truly shudder is the thought of being stuck back in the Bronx neighborhood in which I was raised. No love-hate issues going on there. Such dark fears constitute more of a Twilight Zone episode.
Arthur Miller lived for many years in Gravesend, as did Carlo Gambino. In Boyle’s Gravesend we get to hear the patois of the latter, and look at the people and places of his tale through eyes that see the world a lot more like the former. Gravesend, Boyle’s first novel, is a pretty good beginning to what promises to be a very illustrious long-form career. Dig in.
This is a bleeding, personal image of real-world horror. Filkins dots his canvas largely in red, with the bloodshed he has seen in war, in Afghanistan...moreThis is a bleeding, personal image of real-world horror. Filkins dots his canvas largely in red, with the bloodshed he has seen in war, in Afghanistan, Iraq, on 9/11. The book is comprised of many short passages, images of participants, of events, that offer a visceral experience of these zones of death, deceit and confusion. He does not make pronouncements on what he has witnessed, but puts the images out there for the reader to absorb. This is a must read for anyone interested in the reality of 21st century war and 21st century war reporting.
P 73 Some days I thought we had broken into a mental institution. One of the old ones, from the nineteenth century, where people were dumped and forgotten. It was like we had pried the doors off and found all these people clutching themselves and burying their heads in the corners and sitting in their own filth. It was useful to think of Iraq this way. It helped in your analysis. Murder and torture and sadism: it was part of Iraq. It was in people’s brains.
Sometimes I would walk into the newsroom that we had set up in the New York Times bureau in Baghdad, and I’d find our Iraqi employees gathered around the television watching a torture video. You could buy them in the bazaars in Baghdad; they were left over from Saddam’s time. The Iraqis would be watching them in silence. Just staring at the screen. In one of the videos, some Baath party men had pinned a man down on the floor and were holding his outstretched arms, while another official beat the man’s forearms with a heavy metal pipe until his arm broke into two pieces. There was no sound in the video, but you could see that the man was screaming. None of the Iraqis in the newsroom said anything.
I tried to recall these things when I got impatient with the Iraqis. Sometimes, when readers from America sent me e-mails expressing anger at the Iraqis—why are they so ungrateful? Why can’t they govern themselves?—I considered sending them one of these videos.
P 199 Out there, the boundary between life and death shrank so much that it was little more than a membrane, thin and clear.