David Abrams, who spent 20 years as an Army journalist, is the author of the acclaimed debut novel Fobbit.
From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You served in the U.S. military for 20 years as an Army journalist and the book focuses in part on the military-press relationship. How has that dynamic changed (or remained the same) over the years, especially looking at the period from the Vietnam era to today? In your opinion, did the military learn lessons from the Vietnam War and apply them to later conflicts?Learn more about the book and author at David Abrams' website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.
A: The Vietnam War left a lot of bruises on both the military and the press. Mistakes were made, feelings were hurt, and the “Five O’Clock Follies” dented the military’s credibility for decades. It took nearly a generation of soldiers to pass through the ranks—those senior officers who couldn’t let go of their distrust of the media—but gradually the military started seeing reporters not as adversaries but as potential allies.
By the time I came in to the Army in 1988, the glaciers had started to thaw and the Grand Canyons of division had started to close. There were still plenty of colonels and generals who had nothing by fear and disdain for the media at that time, but eventually they retired and attitudes started to shift.
When I went to Iraq, the Army was still picking through lessons learned in Operation Desert Storm and earnestly applying them to how they’d work with the media in this new, wired Information Age. I think, to a degree, the military has been pretty successful in at least trying to meet the press halfway with embedded media and more timely news releases. They’re not all the way there yet—as the satire in Fobbit points out—but they’ve come a long way since Vietnam.
Q: Fobbit does indeed take a satirical look at the Iraq War, and has drawn comparisons to Catch-22, which in fact one of your characters is reading. In your acknowledgments, you thank writers Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22), Richard Hooker, Tim O'Brien, and Karl Marlantes "for paving the road and lighting the streetlamps." Can you describe how each of them served as an inspiration or influence for you?
A: I think...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.
Writers Read: David Abrams.