Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ghosts of War--The Iraq War by a 19-Year-Old GI

Perhaps I've never mentioned that I've been fascinated by soldiers' personal narratives (diaries, journals, and other accounts) for decades. All the way back to 1972 when I took a course in World War I Literature as a college freshman. The readings transformed me, but the professor's daily three-hour lectures nearly killed me. (A brief 3-week course during a winter session, but 21 days is still 3 weeks.) He acted like the students had nothing to say--during the Vietnam War, no less? I managed to survive with my fascination intact, but it was only the writers who saved me.

These days I'm trying to survey as many soldiers' narratives as I can because I'm interested in eventually producing a global anthology of soldiers' writings covering all historical eras.

I have written and published a book about war before.

But today I'm not going there. I'm talking about Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI by Ryan Smithson, published by HarperCollins in 2009. Smithson lives in upstate New York with his wife these days. Not far away from where I live at all (relatively speaking).

The prose is spare, whittled down to bare bones. Sentences of seven words or less. Powerful. I held the book in my hands the first time and immediately wondered, who edited this book? Who helped Smithson write it? It's published by HarperCollins, after all. And I know for damn sure that when they have an inexperienced writer, they edit the newbee's stuff to pieces. So what's the story BEHIND the writing and editing of this book? That's what I need to know. I'll find out, one way or another. I always do.

In any case, there are some excellent passages for my first-year college students, who will be 17, 18, and 19 years old. But, as I said, that's not why I grabbed onto this book. Can't wait to read it.

1 comment:

  1. The story BEHIND the writing and editing of this book was in the book. I guess you did find out one way or another. The other being, by reading it.

    I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.