Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.
Redeployment is his first story collection.
From the Shelf Awareness Q & A at his website:
As you were writing these stories did you always see yourself heading toward an entire collection of war stories, as this is, or did that happen later?--Marshal Zeringue
The first sentence I wrote was the first sentence of the book: “We shot dogs.” I didn’t know where I was heading, exactly, but I had a voice and a set of experiences I wanted to write about. Not personal experiences—just things people I had known had gone through that stayed in my mind. And not all of those fit into one story, or one perspective. I found that, to get at the different aspects of Iraq I wanted to explore, I had to approach from all these different angles.
One of the book’s strengths is the many different kinds of soldiers you write about, from lance corporals to officers, from foreign service officers to chaplains, from young to old.
That was very intentional. There’s a long tradition in war literature of veterans coming back and telling it like it is, like Paul Baumer in All Quiet on the Western Front going to his former classroom and telling the students that there’s nothing good about dying for your country. Then there’s a tradition in war literature of vets that goes even further, like Tim O’Brien in The Things They’ve Carried, explaining that sometimes a true war story can’t be believed by those who didn’t experience it because “sometimes it’s just beyond telling.” In both of these cases, the vet writer has the authority of experience, so there’s this divide set up between the veteran understanding of war reality and the civilian ignorance. I think of Robert Graves and Alan Hodge asserting that “by the end of 1918 there were two distinct Britains…the Fighting Forces…and the Rest,” or Siegfried Sassoon telling us that “The man who really endured the war at its worst was everlastingly differentiated from everyone except his fellow soldiers.”
The problem is that within that group of people who have been to war there’s...[read on]