September 9th, 2007

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Mosquito Coasting

Here's how I take my Faulkner: in a two-bit sleazy paperback. But of course, inside is the same great prose. I'm lazing my way through this one. By page 112, halfway through, I note that so far, despite the frequent presence of actual buzzing blood-sucking insects, and their symbolic human counterparts, the word "mosquito" itself is deliberately eschewed. A neat trick.

Here's some primo Faulkner descriptiveness to enjoy:

"Pete standing erect in the tender was trying to haul Jenny out of the water. She hung like an expensive doll-confection from his hands, raising at lax intervals a white lovely leg, while Mr. Talliaferro, kneeling, pawed at her shoulders. 'Come on, come on,' Pete hissed at her. The niece swam up and thrust at Jenny's sweet thighs until Jenny tumbled at last into the tender in a soft blond abandon: a charming awkwardness. The niece held the tender steady while they boarded the yacht, then slid skillfully out of the water, sleek and dripping as a seal; and as she swung her short coarse hair back from her face she saw hands, and Gordon's voice said:

"'Give me your hands.'"

"She clasped his hard wrists and felt herself flying. The setting sun came level into his beard and upon all his tall lean body, and dripping water on the deck she stood and looked at him with admiration. 'Gee, you're hard," she said. She touched his forearms again, then she struck him with her fist on his hard high chest. 'Do it again, will you?'

"'Swing you again?' he asked. But she was already in the tender, extending her arms while sunset was a moist gold sheathing her. Again that sensation of flying, of space and motion and his hard hands coming into it; and for an instant she stopped in midflight, hand to hand and arm braced to arm, high above the deck while water dripping from her turned to gold as it fell. Sunset was in his eyes: a glory he could not see; and her taut simple body, almost breastless and with the fleeting hips of a boy, was an ecstasy in golden marble, and in her face the passionate ecstasy of a child."

House to House

I've just finished a book which, though it may strike you as wrongheaded, even jingoistic, in its stance toward an American presence in Iraq, nonetheless serves as an invaluable resource for anyone contemplating writing about urban warfare from the standpoint of an occupying force, particularly as it relates to Iraq. It's called House to House, by David Bellavia. It's pretty graphic, pretty grim. But as far as I can tell, judging by my limited experience, it's an accurate and thus valuable record of a combat infantryman's life during the cleansing of Fallujah. It's simply written and it may strike you as overdramatic, but that's the way a lot of these guys think...and who's to say it's not warranted. Be that as it may, it's a peek into the world of a combat soldier and is a good reference on how it feels to be an infantryman in Iraq and how they go about their day-to-day business of war.

Also recommended as books on urban combat in Iraq are Ambush Alley by Tim Pritchard, a London based journalist, and No True Glory by Bing West. These three books will give you a fairly well-rounded picture of the combat aspect of the war.