Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where men win glory

So, in an attempt to occasionally mention some of the books I'm reading, I finished Jon Kraukauer's "Where Men Win Glory" last night. It's about Pat Tillman, an NFL player who game up a career that would have paid him millions and signed up to join the Rangers. He died in Afghanistan in 2004. All of which sounds a bit straight forward, but naturally isn't.

I confess, I never would have bought this book just based on Tillman's life story alone. For me, the selling point was Kraukauer. His book "Into Thin Air" remains one of most riveting non-fiction books I've ever read. And "Under the Banner of Heaven" made me want firebomb swaths of Utah and Nevada. It was a devastating look at polygamist Mormon sects. So Kraukauer is someone whose books I always look forward to on those rare occasions when they come out. So if he wants to write about Tillman, and the events that happened after his death, I'll certainly give the book a try.

Is it good? It is, but certainly not in the same class as the other two books I've mentioned. It actually feels, and this seems strange, a touch light. As if Kraukauer has to fill some pages to bump his up from what would have been a very solid feature magazine piece up to book length. For example, there's are lengthy sections about incidents in Iraq that had only had a little to do with Tillman. One was the infamous Jessica Lynch rescue and the other a case of a devastating friendly fire incident.

I understand why Kraukauer included both incidents. He wanted to show how the military and the Bush White House reacted when unfavourable incidents happened during war time that could damage them. It wasn't so much spin or even was out right lies. And those incidents were a harbinger of what would happen after Tillman died. Still, I don't know if he needed to go into such extensive detail to get the point across.

Still, even if I think the book has a bit more filler than needed there's still plenty in there to get you riled up. For example, if you needed another reason to want every single member of the Bush White House locked up at Gitmo for the rest of their lives, then reading this book will certainly give you plenty more. "Scumbags" was a word that I kept muttering to myself quite a bit. The White House and military actively lied about what happened o Tillman, saying he was killed by the Taliban when they knew he died in a friendly fire incident. They did it at least partially to deflect from the hammering they were taking over Abu Ghraib. A NFL player who became a Ranger dying heroically to save men in his unit sounds much better than what really happened, which was panicking members of his unit shot him.

Secondly, if you ever wanted more proof that things are completely fucked in Afghanistan and Pakistan, then this book should help do the trick. I'm not quite at the level of saying they only way this will get fixed is if those two countries and everyone living there were to mysteriously vanish, but I'm probably several steps closer now than before I read this book.

It is a good book, by the way. I'm not sure I ever would have been friends with Tillman, but Kraukauer clearly admires him a lot. His portrayal of him his glowing and he rarely has a bad word to say about him. Then again, perhaps there wasn't much bad to say about him. He simply might have been one of those guys that everyone liked.

Despite a bit more filler than I would have liked, I do recommend the book, but perhaps in paperback rather than hardcover. It's no "Into Thin Air", but then again, I suspect Kraukauer could write for the rest of his life and never manage to top that one.

Last Five
1. Run, run, run - Joel Plaskett
2. Leavin' song - Colleen Power*
3. One month off - Bloc Party
4. Trunk - Kings of Leon
5. A stone would cry out - Sam Roberts

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