cover image War Reporting for Cowards

War Reporting for Cowards

Chris Ayres, . . Atlantic Monthly, $24 (280pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-895-8

Ayres asserts from his opening sentences that he is a coward. But this sometimes amusing, often harrowing but poorly organized account of war life makes it clear he is anything but a wimp: he is stuffed inside the confines of a Humvee, digs foxholes in the desert and watches Iraqis blown apart or incinerated (and fears the same will happen to him; he clutches a can of diazepam to commit suicide if he is struck by nerve gas). He reported from Iraq for the London Times from 2002 to 2003 and asserts that he takes no point of view on the war, yet the tone of his story is highly uncritical of the war, and his epilogue (alas, now hopelessly out of date) puts the U.S. firmly in control of the battlefield and describes the insurgency as on the wane. The book's strengths lie in Ayres's details of the gritty, hot, lonely daily grind; its weakest aspect is the too-long tangent of his rise as a young reporter. Ayres's gratitude at surviving his tour is palpable, as he writes, "Now that I know what war is like, I've stopped worrying about death.... I made it home. I'm still alive." Agent, George Lucas. (Aug.)