Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Review of Colby Buzzell's "MY WAR"

This has been my first experience witnessing the birth of an author. The experience is all the more compelling, knowing I have witnessed the metamorphosis of a talent unleashed during the chaos of the war in Iraq.

I first stumbled on CB’s blog, “MY WAR”, in the last days of August 2004, I don’t recall how, when he had already published the infamous post “MEN IN BLACK”. This post was his account of the surreal, chilling, mind-numbing events he participated in, while being ambushed, by who else, as many as 100 foreign fighters, all dressed in black. This was in the city of Mosul on 04 August 04.

“MEN IN BLACK” recounts CB’s experience as a contradiction of the CNN version of events. His stream of consciousness style of writing is so powerful you can feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins, while he relives the insanity of being caught in the middle the of the first all out, coordinated attack, by foreign terrorists in Iraq to date.

“MEN IN BLACK” was the entry that started lighting up Colby’s blog like the Fourth of July and finally started ringing alarm bells all the way to the pentagon. He shut his blog down voluntarily not too much longer after that. And the rest is history.

Interesting blog posts do not necessarily translate into interesting books. Fortunately, in this case they do. CB has a wicked sense of humor that is infectious. I read the first two parts of the book with a big smile on my face, when I wasn’t laughing out loud. This is the work of a natural writer, and as I alluded to at the top, writers are born, not taught, at least not formally. Colby is very well read. Probably more so than most of his contemporaries are, which is why, at 26 he found himself drifting from one dead end job to another, not fitting in anywhere, and thinking there’s got to be more to life than this.

His telling of the events that led up to his joining the army, to literally “be all that I could be” are hilarious. Especially his dealings with the Army recruiter who lured him away from the Marine recruiting office next door with the magic words “signing bonus”, an episode which caused me to laugh out loud.

This is a very well written book. The book’s basis is the story of how Colby Buzzell talked himself into the war in Iraq, his adventures during army training, which he found to be the “best job I ever had”, through the reality of serving with Bravo Company 2nd Platoon (the Tomahawk Battalion), 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd (Arrowhead) Brigade, 2nd infantry Division, in boredom and in battle, in Iraq.

It’s also about how he managed to talk himself out of the army, amidst all the flak he was getting form nervous superiors, with an Army Commendation Medal after serving the full two years he signed on for and not getting in the deep shit for pissing off higher command so royally.

Incidentally, CB’s Stryker Brigade was the very first of it’s kind to be deployed in the field. One of my favorite parts in the book is when he first saw a Stryker retrofitted with the “birdcage” an ugly but very effective piece of additional armor. Here’s how he describes the way the “birdcage works:

“ The birdcage, in theory, works the same way as the chicken-wire fence in the Blues Brothers did. In case you have no appreciation for fine cinema and have never viewed this classic, or maybe you’ve just forgotten the scene I’m referring to, It’s the part where Jake and Elwood get the band back together, and they have that gig at that Okie redneck bar that plays both kinds of music, country and western, and they open up the set by playing the song “Give Me Some Lovin’,” and the stage that they’re playing on has a chicken-wire fence in front of it to shield the band form the incoming Budweiser bottles being thrown at them by the local rednecks. The bottles impact and explode on the chicken-wire fence first, rather than on Jake or Elwood as they try to play. The birdcage around the Stryker works the same way.”

If you are familiar with CBFTW and his blog, or if you are interested in what the reality in Northern Iraq was in 2004, or better yet if you just want to read a good book, buy “MY WAR: Killing Time in Iraq” by Colby Buzzell. You’ll be glad you did. Hell yeah.


CBFTW said...

thank you

Desultory Girl said...

That was a nice review.

Hell yeah...I like that theme.

madtom said...

Very cool!

Life in the 80's said...

Great review and I agree - great book. I emailed CB to thank him and to my surprise received a reply thanking me for the feedback.