Written on: September 14th, 2009 by: Richard.James in Reviews
Two notable books reviewed in this weekend’s New York Times are based, solemnly and appropriately for the weekend of the 9-11 commemorations, in the aftermath of America’s response to the attacks, one in Afghanistan, the other at least in part, in Iraq.
John Krakauer’s long-delayed, much anticipated biography of Pat Tillman, Where Men Win Glory gets a mixed review- mostly because Krakauer has written a full-length biography of Tillman, the pro football player who walked away from his NFL contract to become an Army Ranger, and who died in a still-controversial “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan in 2004, rather than just focusing on his military service. This makes for an unusual combination in which Krakauer juxtaposes Tillman’s childhood, college football stardom, and his move into pro football with the rise of Al Qaeda during the same period, with disconcerting pairings of benchmarks and accomplishments for both.
The other work, similar in some ways, is Shake the Devil Off, by Ethan Browne, the true story of Zachery Bowen, who served in both Kosovo and Iraq, and who returned to his native New Orleans and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brutally killed his girlfriend and then took his own life. Lisa Scottoline has written a nuanced review of this complex book that you can read here
Finally, on a lighter note, the review section also includes Lev Grossman’s The Magicians (which I am hoping to finish and return in the next day or so!) I’ll have to admit that I didn’t like Grossman’s previous novel, Codex, at all- but the Magicians is a great ride so far. The basic concept is a knowing twist on Harry Potter, Narnia, and all of the pantheon of classic fantasy- what if magic really existed, and young magicians went to a Hogwarts-like academy to improve their skills and become masters of the manipulation of reality? What do they do when they graduate and return to the real world, which remains ordinary, despoiled, and stunting?