April Booklogging
By Dwip April 30, 2013, 2:16 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

A bit lighter in terms of sheer volumes read, but we’re rolling right along in page count, thanks to the easy to read nature of most of this material.

An update on the YTD stats:

January: 3 total; 3 fiction (1,712 pages)
February: 3 total; 3 non-fiction (1,098 pages)
March: 13 total; 10 graphic (2,432 pages); 2 fiction (1,462 pages); 1 non-fiction (290 pages)
April: 7 total; 2 graphic (1,200 pages); 2 fiction (1,776 pages); 3 non-fiction (1,244 pages)

Year to Date: 26 total; 12 graphic (3,632 pages); 7 fiction (4,950 pages); 7 non-fiction (2,632 pages)

Details for April after the jump.

4/3/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Compendium Two (2012 Image Comics paperback, 1,068 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

4/3/13 Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Vol. 17 (2012 Image Comics paperback, 132 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

At this point, I’ve finally reached a limit on published Walking Dead graphics. And it’s still pretty good. I was somewhat concerned about the direction of the series after the last major plot point, but Kirkman does seem to mostly know what he’s doing. That said, his propensity to deviate from his own plot if the mood strikes him can be somewhat jarring and random, and the story can sort of lurch around a bit as this happens to greater and lesser degrees.

Mostly I dig it though.

4/13/13 Robert Leckie, Strong Men Armed: The United States Marines Against Japan (2010 Da Capo paperback, 602 pages – Personal collection, 2011)

I picked up a number of books after watching HBO’s The Pacific a couple years ago, and this was one of them. The other work of Leckie’s that I’ve read is his WW2 memoir, Helmet For My Pillow, which I found to be a quick and interesting read, and well-written. Leckie’s journalistic style works quite well for the memoir format.

The same, I fear, cannot be said of this book, which is something like a battle narrative of the USMC’s epic campaign against the Empire of Japan, written in the sort of manly men, selfless heroism, blood and guts fashion that nobody really takes seriously anymore but is pretty characteristic of the 40s (and into the 60s, when this was originally published). I’ll admit that this sort of constant focus on the foxhole-level battlefield makes the book something of a slog – there’s very little examination of the hows and whys of anything going on, most of the characters are cariactures of their real selves, and at times the narrative breaks down completely into lists of Medal of Honor actions.

There are a lot of really fascinating and compelling subjects dealt with here – Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and others are some of the greatest in history, and the accounts of how people earned the Medal of Honor are frequently amazing, as are individual and unit memoirs. The Pacific War in general is one of the most epic of all time. Each of these would make great books in their own right, and while Strong Men Armed rapidly hits its limits in dealing with all of them simultaneously, it must also be said that probably no single book could adequately deal with as much as Leckie has bit off here.

Nevertheless, you’ll need to be deep into the subject matter for this one.

4/16/13 Phil Tompkins, Ruff Puff: A “MAT” Team Leader’s Story (2011 CreateSpace Kindle edition, 290 pages – Personal collection, 2013)

4/17/13 David Donovan Once A Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam (1986 Ballantine paperback, 352 pages – Personal collection, c. 1990)

I’ve always been drawn fairly strongly to the Mobile Advisory Team and Regional Forces/Popular Forces experiences in Vietnam over that of the large (and somewhat detached from actual Vietnamese) American divisional efforts. Once A Warrior King was one of the first books I read about the war back in grade school, and its portrait of small, 4-5 man US advisory teams embedded with local Vietnamese militia units at the village level has strongly affected me ever since. I didn’t call it out by name in my post on Iraq last month for nothing.

And really, let me just quote the author here:

Q: Do your experiences in Vietnam speak to the counterinsurgency effort being made today in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A: Absolutely. Anyone having read OWK would have been able to anticipate the difficulties imposed by cultural and religious differences when a western country goes to war against a country in the east. They should have known that local corruption would be a cancer eating at the heart of any effort to rebuild or reconstitute such a country. They should also have known that westernized elites from those countries often over-promise the democratic tendencies of their more traditionalist countrymen. Also, the traditions of tribe or village over country are difficult for westerners to give credence to, yet they are a part of the experience discussed in OWK. On the other hand, for the soldiers, especially soldier-advisors, in the current conflicts, I hope the incidents, emotions, and methods mentioned in the book can be some sort of guide. What is now called “asymmetric war” is at its heart counterinsurgency. It is small-unit, in-the-bushes warfare conducted in an atmosphere where winning the approval, even the affection of locals is vital to success. OWK is the story of one such war in one village, but its application, I think, is much more general.

A lot of that ought to sound familiar.

I consider Once A Warrior King to be a classic of the genre, an absolute must-read for thinking about the US military and foreign intervention, never mind the Vietnam war. If you Google it up, I think it safe to say I’m not alone – it has almost universal praise, and you’ll see a lot of phrases like “changed my entire way of thinking” and “a formative experience” in the reviews. Extremely well-written, evocative, emotional, and deeply reflective, this is really well worth reading for everyone.

That Iraq post got me thinking about all of this again for the first time in a while, and in digging for it I ran across Phil Tompkins’ book. Same subject as Once A Warrior King, same general arc. Well worth reading, especially for the $3 Kindle price, though Tompkins never quite reaches Donovan’s level of reflection and insight. One suspects that some of this is the self-published nature of the book, and while coherent and full of character (this is a very “guys sitting around talking over beers” sort of book), it seems to me that Ruff Puff could have really benefitted from an editor. Still, an interesting foray into a subject that’s not well known.

4/23/13 George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords (2000 Bantam hardcover, 992 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

People have been telling me for years how great George R. R. Martin is, and for two books now I’ve been waiting for that to actually be true. With A Storm of Swords it would seem that we have arrived, and how. Massive plot twists, we have. I’m guessing Martin’s famed lethality towards his characters also comes out of this book, as do some epic moments of character badassery. We seem to have left behind the The Path of Daggers-era Robert Jordan-style setting up for the next book books, and people are starting to do stuff, and it’s cool. I’m now eagerly awaiting the copy of A Feast For Crows that’s on hold for me at the library. A corner has been turned, and I think I’m now able to appreciate Martin’s skill at writing. Because whoever thought I was going to start sympathizing with Jaime Lannister?

4/29/13 George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows (2005 Bantam Hardcover, 784 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

The book following the giant climax of the sort we got in A Storm of Swords is almost inevitably a bit of a letdown, and for the most part, A Feast For Crows is a bit of that, and it’s kind of a strange book. Lots of characters appear in this book (except for the ones who got shoved out into A Dance With Dragons), but with the exception of the Lannisters very few of them seem to be doing much of anything and are mostly in holding patterns for something else. While we’re now 4 books in and I’m invested in all the characters now, I can’t help but think maybe things could have been tightened up somewhere along the way, and I also can’t help but think that given the size of the books vs. the time spent producing them that Martin’s story maybe got away from him a bit. A Dance With Dragons may prove telling, but I’ll probably have to wait a bit there.

Books, Medialogs Comments (0) Trackback URL for this post RSS Feed for this post

Leave a Comment