A Story of Chaos at the Border of Turkey and Syria

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Dark at the Crossing By Elliot Ackerman

237 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95.

“The age of the war correspondent as hero,” Phillip Knightley famously wrote in his book “The First Casualty,” “appears to be over.” According to Knightley, Vietnam was the high-water mark for the self-mythologizing and self-aggrandizing descendants of the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mowed down by the Japanese on the island of Ie Shima in 1945. Since then, he argued, governments at war have learned to tame their roving journalists; to exaggerate only by a certain degree, many correspondents have become variants of the press eunuchs laconically described by Evelyn Waugh in Abyssinia sitting at the hotel bar writing up the destruction of a hospital in Adowa by Italian bombers. During that war in 1936, indeed, Waugh himself received an actual cable from his editors in London concerning the “heroic nurses” supposedly killed at Adowa. It read, “Require earliest name life story photograph American nurse upblown Adowa.” To which he immortally replied, “Nurse unupblown.” The journalistic stenography of war had already begun.

But what, conversely, of the war literature created by Americans not implicated in the corporate machinery of reportage? It could be argued that it’s a richer harvest. And one could also argue that the most vital literary terrain in America’s overseas wars is now occupied not by journalists but by novelists and even poets: Jehanne Dubrow’s “Stateside,” Brian Turner’s “Phantom Noise,” David Abrams’s “Fobbit,” Nadeem Aslam’s “The Blind Man’s Garden,” the stories of Katey Schultz. Read more

Source: NY Times

 

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