War, What It’s Like: The Marines, Baghdad 2003

The Americans began firing their cannons before they had even braked, encircling the building fast as if they thought it was going to run away.

The trouble with Dexter Filkins is: He makes war sound exciting. Insurgents are shooting at the Americans from a building in a neighborhood of Baghdad called Karada.

I could feel the wind of their bullets flying up the street. I moved in closer.

Absolutely, the right decision. Because readers want to know.

Earlier in the day, a Humvee full of American marines had stopped at Al-Warda (“like a 7-Eleven in the United States”), presumably for “candy and sodas.” The insurgents had been waiting. As soon as “the soldiers cut the engine on their Humvee the insurgents fired their rocket-propelled grenade from an open window and the Humvee exploded.”

Knowing the American retaliation would be fierce, the wise decision would have been for the insurgents to hightail it out of there. But they stayed put, waiting “for more soldiers to arrive so they could fight it out with them and then die.”

And because Filkin is such a good reporter, he stays put, too:

I walked in closer, pressed against the windows of the shops, which were pulsating against my flattened palms.

Now self knows exactly what it is like to be caught in the middle of a street battle. This information might come in handy one day. You never know.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Winner of 2016 Miami University Press Novella Contest Announced

And the winner is:

Tara Deal, for That Night Alive: I’ve Come Close

This year, there were 155 entries. The final judge was Margaret Luongo.

Congratulations to Ms. Deal!

Here are the 2016 poetry titles from Miami University Press:

  • Her Faithfulness (Out Now), by Liz Waldner
  • Leaving CLE (Forthcoming) by Janice A. Lowe

Miami University Press is at the Los Angeles AWP Book Fair, Booth 902.

Here are the scheduled author signings:

Friday, April 1, 2 – 3 p.m. — Lawrence Coates, Camp Olvido

Friday, April 1, 3 – 4 p.m. — Janice A. Lowe, Leaving CLE

Saturday, April 2, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. — Marianne Villanueva, Mayor of the Roses

Hope to see you there!

Stay tuned.




Filkins: Baghdad, Looting Of, 2003

Filkins stops a man who is departing Saddam’s Presidential Palace with a refrigerator:

  • “Nobody likes to steal, and everyone would like to live in a wealthy country,” the man said. “But he never made us feel like we were part of the country.”

Quote of the Day: THE FOREVER WAR

Dexter Filkins, it seems, can go everywhere and do anything.

On 9/11, he got to the World Trade Center (don’t ask how, self doesn’t know) and engaged one of the first responders, a fireman, in conversation. He went to the second floor of one of the ruined buildings, stood on a ledge, and looked down at a crater of rubble. He also, BTW, got to see a cord of human intestine.

The day after 9/11, he took self into One Liberty Plaza and into a Brooks Brothers store, at 3 a.m.

He interviewed prisoners in Afghanistan (prisoners of the regime in power at the time, and now self doesn’t remember if it was the Taliban or the Northern Alliance), including one young man who was on the floor of a filthy cell. The man had been gravely injured. Filkins paused and wrote in his notebook: “Dying.” He went ahead and conducted the interview.

Now, March 2003, he’s in Baghdad. He enters Saddam’s presidential palace in Tikrit, managing to just make it before the advancing American marines. (The mark of a great reporter: Timing is everything)

I stepped into Saddam’s personal study, a wide room of marble floors, cathedral windows and magnificent carpets. The room was empty and quiet. There, on a shelf, sat The Collected Works of Saddam Hussein, volumes 1 – 10, barely cracked. In the next room was a tablet of paper, imposing in its plainness, labeled simply “The President.” In the bathroom were the signs of a hurried exit: a cabinet door open, a crumpled towel on the floor, a pair of men’s boxer shorts still hanging on the rack.

Self can hardly wait to see where he goes next.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.






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