the superfluous novel


Writers are not obliged to deal with current events, but it happens that the big story of our times – the al-Qaida attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – is being told in some of the greatest books of our time. These books do not, however, take the shape and form often expected: the novel. So Finkel and Junger have their work cut out if their contributions are to squeeze on to a shelf of first-rate books that already includes Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars; Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower; George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate; Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City; and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War. Lower the bar only slightly and room would have to be made for books by Thomas E Ricks, Jane Mayer, Evan Wright and Ahmed Rashid. And there’s no sign that the supply is about to dry up. August sees the publication of Jim Frederick’s Black Hearts, which investigates the disintegration, under intolerable pressure, of a platoon of American soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment in Iraq’s “triangle of death” in 2005-06, culminating in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the execution of her family by four members of the platoon.

more from Geoff Dyer at The Guardian here.