Sunday, July 1, 2012

As soldiers really live it

Tell us the title:
Who penned this work?:
Sebastian Junger
How did this piece find it's way to your nightstand?:
This book was given to me for free at a library convention as an advance reading copy.  Which I did not read until long after the book was officially published.
Number of pages:
Time passed from start to finish?:
About 4 days
Describe the cover:

In what section of the bookstore would a reader find this?:
Nonfiction, Current Events
Summary of the basic plot:
This story follows a single platoon in the most dangerous valley in Afghanistan during their 15-month deployment.
Background information on the story/author:
Sebastian Junger is a journalist who also wrote The Perfect Storm.
What did you think of it? (your general response, what you liked or didn't like, what you learned, anything else you want to share about it):
This was nothing like what I expected.  I put off reading this again and again because I didn't think it would be interesting.  When I actually began reading, I was sucked in for days.  I became attached to all of the soldiers, and my mind strained to pretend this was fiction when people died.  It was a different experience than any I've had with nonfiction books.  After I finished, someone told me about the documentary about the same men (created by the author) -- called Restrepo.  I then watched that one afternoon.  It was very compelling, as I already knew the stories of the men, and I was putting faces to names, making it that much more in your face.  These are real men, not characters in a story. 
Which page was your favorite? Share why:
I don't know that I would call any of the pages "favorites," but I did find it very interesting when Junger discussed the biology of war.  He talks about what occurs in your body during war-time experiences such as firefights and attacks, and how those biological responses sometimes produce the opposite effect of what you need to be doing, bringing in the element of self-control.  He discusses what makes men good soldiers, how much of that is innate.  He also talks about how war is so much different now than it was historically, and how we have not evolved to survive automatic weapons (our reactions times cannot respond faster than bullets can fly). 
If the story was made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
This story can never effectively be a cinematic movie with people pretending to be these men. I recommend watching Restrepo.
Share a quote that was worth reading twice. Explain why:
(Pretty self-explanatory, I feel):
"Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up.  War is so obviously evil and wrong that the idea there could be anything good to it almost feels like a profanity.  And yet throughout history, men like Mac and Rice and O'Byrne have come home to find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their lives.  To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in power.  These men come home and quickly find themselves getting berated by a rear-base major who's never seen combat or arguing with their girlfriend about some domestic issue they don't even understand.  When men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at -- you'd have to be deranged -- it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted.  They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life. 
It's such a pure, clean standard that men can completely remake themselves in war.  You could be anything back home -- shy, ugly, rich, poor, unpopular -- and it won't matter because it's of no consequence in a firefight, and therefore of no consequence, period."
Choose your rating:
Changed. My. Life.
I laughed, I cried, I want you to read it
A definite page-turner
Good to check out but don't spend the cash.
Why did I waste my weekend on this?
A disgrace to paper everywhere
Flip to page 2, 22, or 202. Share the 7th sentence on the page. 
"Toward the end of their tour they'd go through entire firefights in nothing but gym shorts and unlaced boots, cigarettes hanging out of their lips."

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