20 October 2005

Listenning Center: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

    This is a true story. You can tell because it makes your stomach turn.
      John Crawford
      The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

A comment on Audible.com said the following of John Crawford's The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell:

To me it was very depressing and negative. I understand that war is not fun and games but the author was so negative that is was miserable to listen to. I quit about half way.

This is somewhat ironic. A little after the point this person quit, Crawford writes that no one in America is interested in stories like the ones he tells - they just want the CNN version. The commenter is right, though. This book is very depressing and negative. As the author points out, that's how you know it's true.

The book tells the story John Crawford's tour in Iraq. Newly married and one semester shy of graduation, his National Guard unit was activated. The chapters, each an almost self-contained short story, capture the fear, boredom, dark humor, pain, and horror that Crawford went through. It proceeds quickly, almost rapid-fire, switching from one emotion to another at a moments notice. It is also a very gripping story that you will find it hard to walk away from. The audio production I listenned to was very well done.

As a literary work, it is not without flaws. Publishers Weekly notes this saying, "Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clich├ęs...." The review goes on to say that, "Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans." I think they miss the point and underestimate the audience. This isn't just a book for war-story buffs. The book is a very real account of the war in Iraq that will hold anyone's attention.

The story paints a picture our leaders would rather we not see, like the flag draped coffins that come home every week. But, just like those coffins, this story embodies the cold reality which every American should understand intimately before endorsing this war. Even now, I think too many are like the person commenting on Audible, unwilling to face up to the ugly truth of it all. When I finished listenning, I drove on in silence for another twenty minutes feeling hollow and numb.

I recommend this book to everyone, and hope it makes them feel the same.

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