Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

Dividing the waters

I have been steeped in "junk reading" for some weeks now. I am up to reading one escape novel per day. For quite a while I was reading nothing of the sort, and I reached a kind of saturation point, could go no further with "good" reading. I needed the escape. Now that I have been indulging in the escape for so long I have finally reached the point where I don't have to have it all the time. I can cut through those waters. So today I picked up a recent purchase: Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Washington Post reporter (now assistant managing editor; formerly bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia and correspondent covering the Afghanistan war) Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

I first heard of this book on the radio a while back. I no longer remember what station, but suspect it was Leonard Lopate on New York public radio. This book gives us the details about the "green zone" in Baghdad: the walled city within a city, former stomping grounds of Saddam Hussein, now the American island of peace and joy within the war-torn Baghdad. The green zone is seven square miles and contains everything one needs for everyday living, and more. It was highlighted in the film Iraq for Sale. Just highlighted there, but my impression was deep.

It's a jolt back to reality. I could have gone for something more "transitional". Good fiction, for example. But instead I am taking on hard, ugly reality on every page.

Fortunately, Chandrasekaran writes well. It strikes me that when you have something important to say you'd damn better be able to say it well. Yesterday I listened to a part of This American Life in which Ira Glass outlines the reasons he personally never really believes John Kerry, even though Kerry has often been right and is often saying what needs to be said. I felt depressed that this is the state we are in today, that we expect our politicians and political writers to sell their ideas and sell them well, in a form that is unmistakably believable and digestible. Fortunately for us, Chandrasekan can do this. Unfortunately for us, not enough people will actually read this book. But I will.
Tags: books

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