The term war porn refers to videos and images brought back from combat zones - IED explosions, air strikes, firefights, images of death and gore largely shorn of context, at times even evidence of potential war crimes (most famously, the photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib). War porn is also, in Scranton's searing debut, a metaphor for the fragmentation and confusion of modern combat, the broken shards of experience that form the wartime experiences of soldiers and civilians alike.
The three sections of War Porn fit inside one another like nesting dolls: from an end-of-summer barbecue in the American Southwest to the perspective of a young US soldier in the early months of the occupation of Iraq to the story of Qasim al-Zabadi, an Iraqi math professor who faces the American invasion with a blend of fear, denial, and perseverance. Through the eyes of the occupiers, we watch Qasim become an interpreter for US forces, then prisoner and victim. As the scene switches from America to Iraq and back again, as home and hell merge, Qasim reveals the fragile humanity that connects occupier and occupied, torturer and tortured.
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The Literary War
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While the author clearly delivers a "literary" product here I wonder who he perceived his audience to be. I'd be surprised if the 'average' veteran who deployed would be able to stay with the narrative. Perhaps it is the literati who review the genre of this title. Like time in country (and afterward) the stories have their lucid moments but the underlying themes of absurdity and abstract fragmented narrative can be overstated and hard to stay with. Perhaps the book needs to be read rather than listened to.
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