Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reading Journal: The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers (2012)

I hate to do it, but sure, I'll say it: Tim O'Brien for the Iraq War. It gets a bit purple in places - one two-page sentence in the latter half, in particular - and it doesn't push the limits of recall versus recount in the way The Things They Carried does, but this is in a way a much-needed novel, one that imagines around the giant reality of this conflict. What impressed me most was that not a ton happened in the book: it alternates from scenes during, before and after our hero, John "Bart" Bartle, embarks on his mission, and other than him there are only two other major characters: his friend, the 18-year-old Private Daniel Murphy, and the battle-hardened sargeant, Sterling. It's compelling throughout and reads fast while being rather imaginative and stylized, telling a simple story in clear and plain language and earning comparisons to everyone from Hemingway and Stephen Crane to Cormac McCarthy, as in this Guardian article, written upon the book's snagging of the newspaper's first novel prize. Love it or otherwise, it will endure - I thought it was a very good novel.

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