Thursday, October 11, 2007

Red Zone Blues

I recently received a free copy of Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge by Pepe Escobar (2007) from the LibraryThing early reviewers program (which is awesome -- I love getting free books!)

Escobar is a Brazilian journalist who reports for the Hong Kong/Thailand-based Asia Times. Red Zone Blues is a compilation of his reports from Baghdad during the surge, together with an introduction and conclusion, and some new material in between. The book was published by Nimble Books, which specializes in fast publishing of material related to timely events. In this case, most of the material discussed in this book happens in the spring of 2007.

The author is obviously anti-Bush and anti-surge. And so am I, so I agree with many of his points. I didn't always like his writing style -- I felt like his sarcasm was occasionally over the top, and tended to obscure the validity of his arguments. He also has a tendency to over-metaphorize (a new word?) pretty much everything. Particularly in the introduction and conclusion, the florid writing and tenuous connections and arguments (the surge is like Carnival in in Rio? the Iraq war could be stopped if people would take to the street like they did against Vietnam?) distract from the meat of the book.

And there is some interesting meat there: the best parts are interviews with Iraqis in Baghdad and refugees in Syria. This is what I really wanted from the book -- what are ordinary people doing there in their everyday lives? How do they get groceries? Where do they work? Those interviews alone make the book worth reading.

Part of my problems with this book might have been solved with a better editorial presence -- but when the point is to publish something right now, I can understand why rigorous editing might be put aside in the name of timely publishing.

I can't say that I would recommend this to everyone, but at 100 pages, it is worth the time for someone interested in another perspective on the war in Iraq.

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