David Abrams. Grove/Black Cat, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2032-8
Abrams’s debut is a harrowing satire of the Iraq War and an instant classic. The Fobbits of the title are U.S. Army support personnel, stationed at Baghdad’s enclave of desk jobs: Forward Operating Base Triumph. Some of the soldiers, like Lt. Col. Vic Duret, are good officers pushed to the brink. Others, like Capt. Abe Shrinkle, are indecisive blowhards. But the soul of the book is Staff Sgt. Chance Gooding Jr., a public relations NCO who spends his days crafting excruciating press releases and fending off a growing sense of moral bankruptcy. A series of bombings, street battles, and media debacles test all of these men and, although there are exciting combat scenes, the book’s most riveting moments are about crafting spin, putting the “Iraqi Face” on the conflict. A sequence in which a press release is drafted and edited and scrutinized, held up for so long that its eventual release is old news, is a pointed vision of losing a public relations war. Abrams, a 20-year Army veteran who served with a public affairs team in Iraq, brings great authority and verisimilitude to his depictions of these attempts to shape the perceptions of the conflict. Abrams’s prose is spot-on and often deadpan funny, as when referring to the “warm pennies” smell of a soldier’s “undermusk of blood,” or when describing one misshapen officer: “skull too big for the stalk of his neck, arms foreshortened like a dinosaur... one word came to mind: thalidomide.” This novel nails the comedy and the pathos, the boredom and the dread, crafting the Iraq War’s answer to Catch-22. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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