Exhibit 1.8.3

In the Lake of the Woods


In the Lake of the Woods


There might not be a novelist I enjoy more but think about less than Tim O’Brien. Going After Cacciato is one of my favorites, but I can’t claim to have ever once gone back and studied its structure–though it’s brilliant–or typed its sentences–though they’re beautiful–or thought of it as the kind of book I’d aspire to write–though I suppose I would.

Somehow O’Brien only seems to exist for me as a reader which is refreshing, really. It’s a better, less selfish relationship than I feel like I have with Didion or Murakami or Nabokov. Those are writers I’d like to be when drunk on egotism or alcohol. O’Brien is a writer I’d like to read, and the only other one I can think of whose impact seems so perfectly quarantined from my own work is, not coincidentally, Joseph Heller.

It’s the war, of course. It’s always the war with O’Brien and you could blame him for it if he weren’t so damn compelling at using it as a way to show how there’s no real peace. O’Brien’s characters are haunted by half-memories and horrors, none more than the protagonist of In the Lake of the Woods which is not our would-be senator but the writer trying to reconstruct what’s happened. It’s O’Brien at his most personal and clever in these footnotes and hypotheses, never letting us forget that when we’re talking about Vietnam we’re talking about many narratives, only some of which even get told and almost none of which agree. Truth isn’t a concept O’Brien seems to believe in and thank god.

Because instead we get this, a mystery without a solution and a history still being fought over as the years fade (by none more than those who were there). There’s this confused swirling around the My Lai atrocity that runs round the novel and comes to a head with the writer’s realization that even he doesn’t even remember what he remembers of the war, or what has come from stories and movies, or what he’s just imagined. The only thing he knows is that “My own war does not belong to me.”, making the book, like all of O’Brien’s fiction about the war, a kind of reclamation from the army, the media, and, most of all, the trauma.

An impossible one, of course. Excepting maybe Oliver Stone, no one has done more to shape narratives about the war than O’Brien, and if he can’t make sense of it, no one can. So it’s no accident that his novels are magical and contradicting and solutionless. It’s a reclamation, I guess, but one mostly interested in making the case that the Vietnam soldier–maybe all soldiers–are the quintessential post-modern subjects.

That seems like more than enough for one writer to take on, and, while it’s terrible that anyone should have to follow in O’Brien’s bootsteps, this being the world, some surely will. We can only hope they hold onto as much humanity and imagination after so much violence set against those very things.


Comment / Posted in 2013, Fiction, Wars

Exhibit 1.4.23

The French

So I accidentally typed in the French address for Amazon.com (amazone.com, apparently) and this was the product splashed all over the homepage:

What exactly are they planning?

1 Comment / Posted in French, Only One, Wars

Exhibit 1.3.5

Recycled Content

So I have no car and I’m pretty sure I’m dying, but that didn’t stop Laura Eve and I from live tweeting Star Wars: A New Hope. Here it is, the laziest blog post yet from a guy who sometimes just posts pictures of his dog.

* Going to live-tweet Star Wars with @hoostown. I recommend you unfollow me now just like the Rebel Alliance unfollowed Emperor Palpatine.

* Laura Eve guest tweet: Live-tweeting Star Wars with @AdamWPeterson instead of working on my fan fiction piece, “What If Luke Had Picked Up Those Power Converters.” *

* Instead of “A New Hope,” Lucas should have changed the subtitle to “Star Wars: A PowerPoint with Robots.”

* O really, Luke, “sand people are the worst?” Might be time to turn off the Fox News.

* When Alec Guinness says “evil” it has 8 syllables and takes 18 seconds. Usually he’s not even done saying it when he has to say it again.

* “We don’t serve their kind here.” Tatooine is all racists and scrap yards. It’s the Mississippi of the Star Wars universe.

* For a decade I’ve been trying to work “I find your lack of Faith Evans disturbing.” into a casual conversation. Preferably on a date.

* I just created my own Star Wars special edition. For about 15 minutes while they’re in hyperspace, the movie becomes Rush videos on YouTube.

* I will now live-tweet this Jell-O mousse cup I took a chance on at the supermarket: heavy pudding.

* I’m not saying Darth Vader is a micromanager, but I’m pretty sure he sewed the Death Star’s curtains.

* Of course the garbage monster on the Death Star has a name. Also, a backstory. Also, the worst slash fiction ever. http://bit.ly/cB1dpE

* The Storm Trooper training manual includes only one rule: always say “Blast ‘Em” before shooting. It’s like the Empire’s Miranda rights.

* Did Obi Wan really follow through on becoming more powerful after his death? Seems like he sort of just died. Same question, Jesus.

* Despite the planet-destroying starship one guy with a bo staff guards the Rebel base. Still, that system did keep my parents out of my room.

* Luke is a cocky pilot for someone who let C-3PO drive earlier. Vader lost to a guy who throws the keys to a talking little league trophy.

* Laura Eve guest tweet: Luke & Leia making eyes at each other but still not hooking up at the end of the movie makes a pretty good argument for waiting. *

And Star Wars is over. I look forward to going back and revising these tweets with new special effects in 2027. [screen wipe]

Comment / Posted in Movies, Recycling, Wars

Exhibit 22.24


It’s always fun when you get to hear a speech that you can say with a fair amount of certainty will be played for tragic irony in movies a generation from now (I imagine it playing on an iPhone as Forrest Gump III kisses a girl dressed like Miley Cyrus as he graduates from the University of Phoenix). Which is not to say it’s the wrong decision–I certainly wouldn’t know–just that it is so clearly the only tenable one that the best anyone can hope for is understanding of that fact. There’s no longer any real criteria for success and there may never have been–democracy! O!–but eight years later it seems silly to imagine we can just up and leave without consequences for ourselves let alone the men (and especially women) of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it’s equally silly to imagine that bullets in the service of a corrupt government will make anything better.

Which is why we get to again have speeches about exiting that somehow announce major troop escalations. Afghanistan is not Vietnam but it is not Iraq either. The “success” of “the surge” there would seemingly be irrelevant in this discussion but there’s no denying it’s attractive to ignore those distinctions. On the one hand you have the possibility of some protracted withdrawal that would attempt, pointlessly, not to lead to the fall of the government and regional instability and on the other you have the dream of just a few more months with a few more troops and…

It’s easy to see the good that might be done. It’s easy to see how no one else is willing to take responsibility for the world and feel like you have to. It’s easy to see the odds of Islamabad’s collapse following Kabul’s and have your hand forced by terrifying hypotheticals.

Who knows. To paraphrase Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, “In Afghanistan, the choices are frequently narrow.”

Comment / Posted in Politics, Waiting, Wars