A belated Book Festival follow-up

I know, it’s been a couple weeks since the Festival of Books. But, as you can see, I’ve been mostly absent from the blog. Being crazy busy at work doesn’t go well with oral surgery (fortunately after the Festival), especially when it greatly impairs your ability to speak. Besides, one of the items just came to my attention today.

Of course, I made it a point to ask Karl Marlantes to inscribe my favorite nonfiction book of last year. I also attended his presentation on Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. I must admit leaving a bit sheepish. After years of contending that symbolism in novels is more a creation of English teachers than authors, Marlantes’ discussion explained the tons of symbolism in that novel. And, further proving my illiterati status, I missed virtually all of it when I read the book.

Then, an email earlier this week from the Humanities Council mentioned a few Festival items, including that Fobbit author David Abrams wrote a blog post about his experiences. One of his observations: “[O]n the second day, an older gentleman passed me in the lobby, did a double-take when he saw my nametag, and reached out a hand to stop me. ‘I read your book three weeks ago–got it from the library–and I really enjoyed it. You certainly have a different take on the war. I never been in the service or been close to combat, but I could appreciate what you were doing with that book.'”

That “older gentleman” (true but painful) was me. Considering it was a spur of the moment, 30-second conversation prompted entirely by seeing his tag, Abrams’ recall is quite accurate. What strikes me, though, is that a simple comment can mean something to an author. Not only does it make me glad I stopped him, I won’t hesitate the next time such an opportunity arises.

The post also makes me wish I’d had a longer chat with Abrams. Here is what he said about the Marlantes book I loved so much:

I consider What It Is Like to Go to War one of the most IMPORTANT books of our young century. It should be required reading for every member of the armed forces, highest rank to lowest rank; as well as: members of Congress, housewives, career women, stay-at-home dads, stockbrockers, bricklayers, college faculty, Taco Bell fry cooks, hawks, doves, and everyone else in between.

Here is what I said in my brief review of the book:

The list of those who should be required to read the book is long: every decisionmaker and policymaker in the Department of Defense, every NCO and officer in the military, and every member of Congress. It better be on President’s Obama’s list of “books I read this summer.” What It Is Like to Go to War should be assigned reading at every military academy and in any fundamental leadership course for non-academy military training. In fact, it is a book that should be read by everyone who relies on the military. In other words, it should be read by all of us.

While he certainly was more articulate, I guess great minds do think alike.

War is society’s dirty work, usually done by kids cleaning up failures perpetrated by adults.

Karl Marlantes, What It Is Like To Go To War

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