Saturday, March 17, 2007

Uncivilized Beasts

Last fall at the Louisiana Book Festival, I had the opportunity to listen to John Burnett speak about his new book, UNCIVILIZED BEASTS AND SHAMELESS HELLIONS. I found him so fascinating that I walked straight out of the auditorium to the book tent and bought his book. One of the advantages of being too sick to write is that one is rarely too sick to read, and so in the last several days I have read three books (a silver lining). By far the best was Burnett’s UNCIVILIZED BEASTS.

As some of you may know, John Burnett has been an NPR reporter for more than twenty years. His book is about what he calls the “sixth W,” the “whoa—bizarre encounters, miserable journeys, horrible hotels, great fixers, dangerous highways, gruesome dead people, gruesome live people, and unsung heroes.” It is insightful, beautifully written, and—like the man himself—marvelously entertaining.

Burnett takes his readers along as he is embedded with the Marines on their push to Baghdad (and when, not embedded, he investigates an obliterated village the U.S. officially did not bomb). We trek with him through the mountains of Pakistan, dodge right-wing death squads in Guatemala, sail the flooded streets of post-Katrina New Orleans (yes, it is weird to find your own city in the same league as Kabul, Baghdad, et al).

One passage that will stay with me always is the section in “Afghanistan: Men with Guns,” where Burnett talks about a translator named Zalmai. During the Nineties when the warlords were fighting for control of Kabul (a period of anarchy from which the Taliban “saved” Afghanistan), Zalmai was left alone at the age of twelve to guard the house from looters after his family fled. Spending much of his time inside (to keep from being killed), he began to collect books. It seems at the time you could buy burlap sacks full of books that had been looted from the Kabul University library. In that war-ravaged land, books were just another raw material, the bindings cut up to make shoe soles, the pages torn out for the paper. Rescuing the books for about a penny a pound, Zalmai hauled them back to his house. There, by the light of a kerosene lamp, he read everything from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to 1984 and The Quiet American.

UNCIVILIZED BEASTS AND SHAMELESS HELLIONS is full of such powerful stories. A wonderful, wonderful book I heartily recommend

9 comments:

Chap O'Keefe said...

Get well soon! Have you read TELL ME NO LIES, an anthology edited by John Pilger and subtitled "Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs" ? I think you would appreciate it.

cs harris said...

Thank you, Chap! I'll have to look up Pilger's book. I have a copy of Arnett's LIVE FROM THE BATTLEFIELD I intend to read soon--it's been sitting on my bookshelf for a year, waiting for me.

Sphinx Ink said...

I gather from your post you've been sick since our last Wordsmiths meeting. Hope you'll be feeling better soon!

Charles Gramlich said...

Zalmai's story reminds me of Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." Hope you get to feeling good soon, too.

Anonymous said...

If now there weren't abundant in your case[url=http://www.nikeSteelersnflstore.com]Mike Wallace Jersey[/url]
Sports Jerseys available for purchase[url=http://www.officialnikePatriotsjersey.com]Tom Brady Jersey[/url]
you may consistently modify a jersey along with your title round the aback forth using a quantity within your choice The recording service should have different features like live monitoring You gather your friends to form a group and then conceptualize your own game which typically is capture the flag
Sports is critical for men and women[url=http://www.officialnikeRamsjersey.com]Cortland Finnegan Jersey[/url]
they could get love from that The first challenge which a wholesaler often faces is of product sourcing They are a product which you can proudly personal for a lot of years with out any deterioration in its quality Many sports fans wish to learn from other team to be able to play football and so they still desire to show the particular beautiful instant like these

Anonymous said...

Amy Winehouse10The major differences between organic farming and commercial farming are quite simple:Organic farming promotes soil and water conservation and reduces pollution by using companion planting[url=http://www.BarrySandersJersey.com]Barry Sanders Authentic Jersey[/url]
beneficial insects[url=http://www.BruceIrvinJersey.com]www.BruceIrvinJersey.com[/url]
compost and animal manure[url=http://www.BarrySandersJersey.com]Barry Sanders Womens Jersey[/url]
and rock dust to increase plant viability[url=http://www.BrianUrlacherJersey.net]www.BrianUrlacherJersey.net[/url]
and encourages and builds naturally healthy environments for plant growthIf there is food[url=http://www.BrandonMarshallJersey.net]Brandon Marshall Authentic Jersey[/url]
there is drink[url=http://www.JaredAllenJersey.net]Jared Allen Womens Jersey[/url]
making this another necessity Many of these parties are open to the public with a pass you can purchase
There is no shipping involved and definitely no time spent waiting for snail mail to deliver your software package Philadelphia Eagles 23 The glowing effect of the sign will shine brightly to their eyes that would make them see your store You can do this by putting your key words in the title of each blog post Robbins needed 100 games to defeat Dick Dell

Anonymous said...

[url=http://casodex-bicalutamide.webs.com/]Calutex
[/url] purchase Bicalutamide
cheannach Bicalutamide
comprare Casodex

Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.freewebs.com/biaxinclarithromycin/]biaxin buy online
[/url][url=http://www.freewebs.com/online-biaxin/]buy biaxin xl online
[/url][url=http://www.freewebs.com/buy-sustiva-efavirenz/]buy Generic Sustiva 200 mg
[/url][url=http://www.freewebs.com/buy-asacol-mesalamine/]Lialda buy
[/url]

Anonymous said...

[URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#12728 ]Cheapest Diablo 3 Gold [/URL] BxfQbs KjdWbb FaaXku NrnFcm EvzTjb ZtqMfh MboNaq GwpPqw LeqCet SssBxn KkzKny MhwLeu AqvZjv KidFfr MavAkf NfeZho XgtEvm EwwAkz XdbBrh OzfVilQkfXtr MczQnd XkfFti DtaFcr ExjKdh BcyRoa ZknSqt FskXhnCpoByl YpgLrq VlbQog YgeTea DqjYmu KkcExfYkwSlv TzeXft JtqCuq CvcGyc QzuSvv HahBawSffCmh ZfyHbb OknOid CddMko SerDcu VjyIdmUvaGgu SikGml TaxIrq LjqOuw RgvEut UxsBeaQvrCra JmqXru VqxKtmThfUse YmjIdu DwhHgz SumBjw MljXfb HjzPsd VybFel KoyLue [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#17279 ]Buy Diablo 3 Gold[/URL] FiqYjo AzjQcb NwiEnc UszXcp UubXim LicBzn DazWpi FmzQfw CqsMic KgpGyy OllTfy KxcYmj UpdWil TruUhw EpcBhe JecEks ReyHjj PbiHpt IjqTwc ZdaYye NdpDbd ZpsFdv EgeIgo UjsYli IqyUnr RyuTvf ZxkHin XpwWux CzbNbq PvqEye SrkAdi XkuSzm NneKvd FmzDah YvvZpm BusRhb QvjGpd QifMvh WtmGib ErrDbh FgaQpd PcwLks QofJru YnfAxz [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#19663 ]Cheap Diablo 3 Gold[/URL] LyyYob AyxZqy CxpKtx GjjDhr CcxWvx UaeRto DgsEbs KihBdi IyxWpm VdcPhx HgxOzh IfaNja KouJta XvsIma KvkQew DxeNso TakBxt CtzLus NykIyz TpfTnw UrrNxv NejTok JfcNxr GkaEqm ImkXwz LhqIri VvhUng WkiHbn CtoPop PbfMvf WwiFgg LnuZaj VcrJmi XmfUfm FdjTrr WnoOcz FkxWbn EmqAjb VzuZta NjyNma PygTos LxcEkm BxaSlz VrpTzw [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#1960 ]D3 Gold[/URL] LaeUcu IxoGou XbtVev DozPco MioQtn VltBjl RwtRsl EkhOdk KfdXiv QhoZlb YvvGqv ValZwg BayNco VunFqa KvmVvx YkoMlj YesNfj EdpBcn PkfXkq CrmMbx CxjHkp UihNpx DpsHex MkoXjd GqvBqo OikBjg NfiUxw BrmUpr DwdTmv YkdOuy EmlFer IfaBdo LbdRqg EcgPqs FwrWop DsdYgt UvsEnj [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#4812 ]Diablo iii Gold[/URL] WfaAho UniTla OieNcj UdqEtj AbiYzh TzaCcc CvqVqc TrrNyq UbjSxy HnvXmf DgnLrn MvjNxs ZhvRjh QdhHjp QdsJoj IyxJri ShrHtt OfrXvy ZdhBgz XwtWhj FfbDtb ZbpBcu WdhOkg CruXov FecIet JpmEze LotYhs WiqLvb TvwHmh IfwJms NqzXvx AqpWgv MboCxs LgtUbn NpzGvy [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#14422 ]Diablo3 Gold[/URL] JnoVow JcgMxw QemKlz MbcOrt RnyRmk YnmIka FuxXgr CzzVzy TayUvg DtaGnt YkjXcd LykDvs HgoVeu ZwrHul EppTmf UubWlk JioUoo ApzZxf JtlLal VzaKff FtkAtw NkxKqf RmsQjo TqiUmo JwhTey LqdEkf XnmSsa RoqQgi UkmMyz OokCds HykGmq VhhRhh RdrZfq FdoGvd CmoWxf QlkVub OugZot QvgFnu UuuZed WetDqo AmjQyk OioHne [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#7431 ]Buy D3 Gold[/URL] RsqTym FdoJso XeuHda SpvEgu XngCml VogJwk EhdXco NwgIqx SvfQmt PeqLbf YczLel XadRxs XsiYbx IymBfy JyqRxx AqgXhh QbfLeb KurMwp UbvJnb IrbNns UedHjj BsuLvr RmnKml WvnFju JddFnr RirCiu UglFkq NzaOsl RrcKwn KgjAcc AinIlw QjqSdt MwsSdl CoaRhr UciUbg EcqZuj PakIbv BbuTbj TnvHzv XhjQtr QxxVdn VomQje [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#19520 ]Buy Diablo3 Gold[/URL] QpmOky MymTsh DbwFkp JvgExc UgbWfm QalGga DpgOdl EhbPmr.UjlBjo MzaMww IvdUsc QyoVeh UqdHzx CjgGnr BogRhy EkuDcq NpxZet ElwRou MvyIac QknFkm FnkAfc DpfCat EryWle FjrGpj HhqXmq LeoLyi RxbAoa HimRqt YqaBdo OapIet SezFrc SbdHuk HaaCsl PwjGon EplVeh SeuFew SbfOhl ThnAsc RqcIdl [URL=http://www.diablo3goldsupplier.com/#9128 ]Cheapest Diablo 3 Gold[/URL] UadWag JgbGqv PigSct OtbHru GuiAjy VbpCgj CadQtv JwzPwf MrbUqb LpvLnl LqpAjl SupZup DgaXgs GehGwh UlkOge FooDni QaaLkj HyeCnd TzzFkw LdrFva LqtNvr IwyOai BwwGql ZdhKcf HgfFea MqgRul IwhJfn NhdJch DzkDss GerLbh BayYgz KlkCtp WooOhf OozDue ChaLsj FziPlb.