Sunday, January 25, 2015

the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt eight)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

I want to smoke a cigarette. I’ve got a pack in my pocket, my last from a carton I picked up visiting friends in the Carolinas. In this city, smoking’ll kill your bank account way before it kills your lungs.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

the Bob Dylan in New York anniversary



On January 24, 1961, Bob Dylan performed at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. It was Dylan's very first performance in New York City.

Four years ago, for the 50th anniversary, videographer Jeremy Krinsley and I put together a four-part series of Dylan landmarks for the Village Voice. The above video contains all four of those shoots "fused together."

Feel free to leave the name of your favorite Bob Dylan album in the comments (mine's Blood on the Tracks).

Happy Dylan Day.



the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt seven)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

Aiden Russo was the first of the suicides. He did it on leave, with his personal handgun. After Russo’s death, the incoming chaplain, Reverend Brooks, gave a suicide prevention speech to the battalion. In his speech, he claimed America’s suicide rates were a result of Roe v. Wade. Apparently, abortion was degrading our society’s respect for the sanctity of life. Brooks was one of the hordes of born-again chaplains coming not from established churches, but from the loosely organized Independent Baptist Churches. My RP told me that after his talk, the Marines joked about how they thought I was going to punch him out mid-speech.

Five months later, Albert Beilin killed himself with pills. Both Beilin and Russo were from Charlie Company.

A year later, José Ray, back in Iraq for the third time, shot himself in the head.



Friday, January 23, 2015

the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt six)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

“I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to keep Marines alive,” the sergeant major said, haranguing the men only a few days afterward, “and the fact of the matter is, when a Marine comes in and he wasn’t wearing his PPE when he was hit, because it’s hot, and he doesn’t want to wear it while he’s at the OP, I’m the one who’s got to say the thing nobody wants to say.”

Levin had been hit in the neck. PPE wouldn’t have helped. But I guess the sergeant major, like most people, needed death to be sensible. A reason for each casualty. I’d seen the same feeble theodicy at funerals in the civilian world. If lung disease, the deceased should be a smoker. If heart disease, a lover of red meat. Some sort of causality, no matter how tenuous, to sanitize it. As if mortality is a game with rules where the universe is rational and the God watching over maneuvers us like chess pieces, His fingers deep into the sides of the world.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt five)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

When I asked him why he felt the way he did, I got a long list. Since the deaths of two of his friends six weeks before, he’d been having mood swings, angry outbursts. He’d been punching walls, finding it impossible to sleep unless he quadrupled the maximum recommended dosage of sleeping pills, and when he did sleep he had nightmares about the deaths of his friends, about his own death, about violence. It was a pretty complete PTSD checklist—intense anxiety, sadness, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and, most powerfully, an overwhelming feeling of utter helplessness.

“I know I won’t make it out of combat alive,” he said. “Every day, I have no choice. They send me to get myself killed. It’s f*cking pointless.”



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt four)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

Not long after Sepion’s death, one of the Divine Office’s morning prayers was Psalm 144: “Blessed by the Lord, my help, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.” Kneeling against my rack in my spare little trailer, I faltered. I turned back to the previous prayer, from Daniel: “Today there is no prince, no prophet, no leader, no holocaust, no sacrifice. No offering, no incense, no first-fruits offered to you--no way to obtain your mercy.”

I stopped reading and tried to pray with my own words. I asked God to protect the battalion from further harm. I knew He would not. I asked Him to bring abuses to light. I knew He would not. I asked Him, finally, for grace.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the last book I ever read (Phil Klay's Redeployment, excerpt three)

from 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction Redeployment by Phil Klay:

And Rachel was gone. I’d seen it coming. She was a pacifist in high school, so once I signed my enlistment papers the thing we had going went on life support.

She would have been perfect. She was melancholy. She was thin. She always thought about death, but she didn’t get off on it like the goth kids. And I loved her because she was thoughtful and kind. Even now, I won’t pretend she was especially good-looking, but she listened, and there’s a beauty in that you don’t often find.