Friday, October 15, 2010

"Every Man in this Village is a Liar", by Megan K. Stack

This is an amazing book.

It is a young journalist's first hand account of her six years covering the wars in the Middle East from 2001 to 2007. It was published in June of this year and has been nominated for the National Book Award in non-fiction. It was unknown to me until last week probably because the New York Times has apparently chosen not to review it. Draw your own conclusion.

Stack has stints in Afghanistan at the onset of the first U.S. invasion as the then 25 year old L.A. Times reporter happened to be on vacation in Paris on 9/11 and with airspace shut down she was one of their few reporters able to get on the scene quickly. The first chapter describing what she experienced there is a stunning beginning to the book and her unvarnished observations were more informative to me than almost anything I have read.

She had assignments over time in Iraq, Isreal, Lebannon, Saudi Arabia, Cairo, Amman, and Yemen. She has no favorites other than the everyday people that she met, interviewed, hid with, and with whom at times she shared danger. Her observations are not ones that derive from some standard political angles.

At times I worked to find fault with the book. Was it overwritten with adjectives in abundance. Was it overly dramatic. In the end I gave up the effort for objectivity and accepted that it was just a brilliant book that had insights that were so obvious that they had been overlooked by most of the war reporting.

This book both confirmed what we know if we think about the Middle East and added a personal story that made it come to life. There have been many reviews elsewhere that preclude this one from going on. Many quotes of consequence could be dug up with more work here. I'll close with just one from the closing chapter.

"Somewhere between Afghanistan and Iraq, we lost our way. The carnage of it and the disorder, all to create a new Middle East. But naturally there would be no new Middle East because the old Middle East is still here, and where should it go? Only a country as quixotic, as history free, as America could come up with this notion: that you can make the old one go away."


Post a Comment

<< Home