Sex, Iraq, and pop culture

By ELLEE DEAN  |  January 11, 2007

Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon — Some talking lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo and they’re ready to kick some serious ass — or is it worth it? — in Vaughan and Henrichon’s graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad. Check out Douglas Wolk’s review here.

The books
My War, Killing Time In Iraq, by Colby Buzzell — Admittedly, I picked this book for the Kurt Vonnegut quote on the cover. I won’t repeat the quote here; this book should not be judged by its (sweet neon) packaging. But in case you’re wondering how and why Colby Buzzell got the name My War for his blog-turned-book, it’s from a Black Flag song. And yes, Buzzell is a Bay Area “7-Eleven guy, record-store guy, towel-guy-at-the-gym guy”; an I-worked-seasonally-at-Toys-R-Us type of guy that some suburban parents might call a punk. That is, until he became a machine-gunner who now writes about heavy-metal-devil-horn-hand-signal-Who hoo!-Fuck you, mosque!-Fuck you! guys. Basically, Buzzell joined the army, got lied to, got sent to Iraq, lived to blog and write a book about it, and now gets to choose between going back to school, working at FedEx, or holding up a cardboard sign with the words “Veteran” and “Homeless” on it. Buzzell’s book is “Nothing less than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war on our behalf.” Right, Vonnegut?

Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and The Home Front In The Words Of U.S. Troops And Their Families, edited by Andrew Carroll — “She came up to me and ripped off my blanket, grabbed my brown undies, and ripped those off too and gave me a catheter. Now that was more painful than the IED and way not what I was thinking was going to happen when she grabbed my blanket off me.” — Sergeant Timothy J. Gaestel

Soldiers: they’re just like us! In an e-mail to his father, Sergeant Timothy J. Gaestel, 22, describes his bleeding back — wounded by a roadside IED. A “beautiful” nurse saves his life; but, Gaestel tells us, “It could be she was beautiful because I haven’t seen a woman in a while.”

Writers such as Mark Bowden, Tom Clancy, Bobbie Ann Mason, Marilyn Nelson, and Tobias Wolff visited US military bases to conduct writing workshops for interested troops. The result: wartime fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in the form of 10,000 e-mails, letters, journals, personal essays, and short stories from a variety of perspectives — including that of the occasional horny and wounded soldier.

The Crisis of Islam, Holy War and Unholy Terror, by Bernard Lewis — Bernard Lewis is the man when it comes to Middle East history. The Crisis of Islam is based on his George Polk Award–winning New Yorker article, and importantly, it’s very short. Lewis gives an overview of Islam — beginning with the advent of the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century and ending with the advent of terrorism — all in less than 200 pages. Even history dropouts will be able to read this book.

The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward — A New Approach, by the Iraq Study Group, James A. Baker III, and Lee H. Hamilton — Though Vintage published the panel’s report, you can find a free, downloadable, full-text, PDF version of the Iraq Study Group report on the United States Institute of Peace Web site (or just Wiki it). You should read it because, well, everybody else is talking about it. (It’s 84 pages, which equals, like, four issues of Us Weekly. And the last 20 pages are the appendices.)

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