Friday, November 5, 2010

Every Man in This Village is a Liar by Megan Stack

Stack uses language like a paintbrush in this memoir of her time covering the Middle East and South Asia as a reporter for the L.A. Times. In fact, she became a foreign correspondent by accident: being in Europe when the Twin Towers fell, she stumbled into Afghanistan. Throughout the book I have highlighted passages that capture light:
"I left Afghanistan--the light that falls like powder on the poppy fields, the mortars stacked like firewood in broken-down sheds at the abandoned terror compounds, the throaty green of the mineral rivers. In the back of the car, I stared into a scrubbed sky as empty plains slipped past."
And then this:
"And then I was at my mother's house in Connecticut, walking known floorboards, the same naked trees in the windows, blocked by familiar walls. The silence of the house screamed in my ears, and my bones and skin hung like shed snakeskin that wouldn't fall away."
But Stack also captures the sense (or the nonsense) of the Middle East, and in a gut-wrenching final analysis makes the divisions between countrymen in Lebanon sound so much like the deadlock in the current U.S. political situation one wants to wail in sorrow. Instead of transforming the Middle East in our image (George W. Bush's raison d’ĂȘtre), we are becoming more like them.

The final chapter of Stack's mideast tour introduces us to a young man in Baghdad in 2006, and if her description of his wasted life doesn't make you grind your teeth in frustration and fury, you have already passed to the netherworld.

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