Saturday, December 26, 2009

David Finkel

David Finkel is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Washington Post and author of The Good Soldiers. He spent eight months with a battalion of American soldiers near Baghdad, 800 men and women from Fort Riley, Kansas, who were part of the “surge” of troops to Iraq begining in 2007.

From his Q & A with Ian Fisher of the New York Times:

Q. Your book starts in 2007, when Iraq pretty much looked lost and even many early supporters were throwing up their hands. Americans seemed to feel they already knew too much about Iraq and the war. Why write then? What did you want to show?

A. You’re right about 2007. As I wrote in the book of the surge’s beginning, in January 2007, “To most Americans, who polls showed were fed up and wanted the troops brought home, the moment at hand was of tragedy, beyond which would be only loss.” Such a moment, of course, would interest any writer. Also, the great policy books of the war had been published by then, and memoirs were coming out, but no one had done a book based on observed journalism, the kind where you plant yourself in the middle of something and document, without agenda, what happens. That’s what this book attempts to do. I didn’t want to write a book about the Iraq war so much as use the war to write intimately about the character of young men, and if the book is successful, it’s because it’s a story pretty much about any soldiers in any war. What did I want to show? That’s what I wanted to show. I had no idea what would happen. I just wanted to be there, see it, write it.

Q. It is the characters, in fact, who make your book so alive: Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, who says, “It’s all good” no matter what terrible things are in front of his eyes and who might have been a cartoon in many people’s books but is not in yours; Sgt. Adam Schumann, the great soldier who finally had to face that he’d been through too much; Stephanie Kauzlarich, the colonel’s wife, who struggled with how to answer the question of how she was with: “I’m sick of being a single parent. I’m sick of not having sex. Is that what I say? That life sucks?” This is tough stuff, not all flattering but very real. How did the Second Battalion, 16th Infantry and their families react to having you watching so closely? How did you balance the journalist’s eye to tell all with the close bond you obviously forged with...[read on]
Read more about The Good Soldiers.

--Marshal Zeringue