Dymocks is having one of its infrequent sales at the moment, and as well as the usual tables of books that never sell (vast amounts of home crafty-type books on stencils and stencilling or the grand history of tea infusions), the table of outdated computer books (great for people interested in learning iPhoto 2 or Windows 98), and the swathes of $5 romances and “thrillers” that not even the feeble-minded touch, there are plenty of bargains. In fact, I realised recently that almost all of my books purchased in recent years have been sale purchases. I very rarely buy a book at full price. Maybe I’m a tight-fisted Irishman (or descendant of one, at least). Or maybe I don’t fancy being gouged $24.99 for a paperback book of the latest popular pseudo-intellectual fiction where the pages turn yellow after a week and fall apart the first time you sneeze.
Anyway, I picked up Thunder Run: Three Days for the Battle of Baghdad the other day.
It’s in the same vein as Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, in so far as it’s a war book written by a journalist (and for this book, by a journalist who was actually there) and not written by an actual participant of the battles. Downside to this: journo’s are inherently untrustworthy and traditionally distort almost everything to make reality more entertaining. Upside: it’s not written by a participant of the battle, which I’m led to believe that the recent Jar Head is (I picked that up off the specials table at Dymocks as well, and saw that there were about six words on each page, written in approximately 20 point font. I put it down again.), which means that the chances of a coherent read are better, and a reader gets a view of more than one participant.Thunder Run recounts the US taking over Baghdad, where a battalion of tanks (or lots of them anyway – I have no idea what military words like “battalion” mean) rolled into the centre of Baghdad, rather than engaging in a siege as everybody on both sides seemed to think was going to happen. They drove up the nice modern highways of that city, defending themselves against thousands of frankly inept Iraqi attacks, established hold points to defend their supply lines, and took Baghdad. The sheer numbers of Iraqi attacks from all directions simultaneously, the rocket propelled grenades exploding against the tanks, and the continuous streams of bullets pinging of the tanks’ armour as they cruise up and down the highway are amazing. Just because it was quick doesn’t mean it was easy. So it’s a good read, but it disturbs me that I’m starting to read and enjoy books like this and like Black Hawk Down. It reminds me of the Dennis Leary song (I’m an) Asshole:
I'm just a regular Joe with a regular job.
I'm your average white suburbanite slob.
I like football and porno and books about war.
I've got an average house with a nice hardwood floor.
My wife and my job, my kids and my car.
My feet on my table and a Cuban cigar.
(Well, apart from the wife and kids)