i know what you mean!

summary of time spent

Posted on: November 13, 2010

the last 3 days were spent delving into this book. I highly recommend it, but it’s depressing as hell. The prose is beautiful to read though. Not beautiful as in poetic, although there is that too, but beautiful because you don’t see a redundant word. What she writes packs with what she means, and you understand what she means first and foremost, before she start to ponder on your own what else could the facts that she presented mean. I know it should be the other way around with journalism, where the reporter presents the facts and stand behind them. However, it works much better this way in the case of Ms Stack’s book, because she is (to me anyway) an eye witness. So you see how she internalises events, how things affect her. It’s what happens to her thoughts and emotions and perception that connect me to the people she met. I never forget that I am the far away/abstract America she refers to, it is the truth. Here’s a sample of her writing: (in the chapter covering the Israeli bombing of Lebanon):

And now, in the depths of this war, I believe that nobody will ever see this, that Israel will never really look, and America will never really look, either. This is real to nobody. This would never be real to me if I were not here. Oh God just make it stop. Make the bombs stop. There was this policy, and that policy. One war and then another, all of it clumped together. It must have meant something–It seemed to mean a great deal–back when we all went into Afghanistan. Somewhere between Afghanistan and Iraq, we lost our way. The carnage of it and the disorder, all to create a new Middle East. But naturally there would be no new Middle East because the old Middle East is still here, and where should it go? Only a county as quixotic, as history-free, as America could come up with this notion: that you can make the old one go away. Maybe you can debate until it makes sense from a distance, as an abstraction. But up close the war on terror isn’t anything but the sick and feeble cringing in an asylum, babies in shock, structure smashed. Baghdad broken. Afghanistan broken. Egypt broken. The line between heaven and earth, broken. Lebanon broken. Broken peace and broken roads and broken bridges. The broken faith and years of broken promises. Children inheriting their parents’ broken hearts, growing up with a taste for vengeance.

This is the next to last chapter of the book, so perhaps it’s a bad decision on my part to let the passage above be your introduction to the book. It’s a heart broken reporter talking about her entire experience covering the Middle East post 9/11 culminating up to Lebanon. When the world just watched Israel bombed Lebanon back to the middle age, Stack went straight towards where the bombs were falling to report. The experience took such a toll on her that afterward, she asked to be transferred out of the region altogether. The quoted passage just sums up all the events reported from previous chapters mixed in with raw emotions of someone who has been through hell. I would consider this the climax of the book, just because every sentence is echoing a previously presented point.

I strongly recommend this book.

In other news, here are a few highlights on the budding conversationalist:

1. May was asking for something from the night stand but I wasn’t sure which item she wanted, so after a few wrong offerings, she said,
“hộp …. nhỏ nhỏ” (box, small ) woa, an adjective, whoopie!

2. On the highway, we play a game where I pretend to “chase” cargo trucks. It’s inevitable that we would pass those anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to entertain May while I’m at it. This game is very handy when I don’t want her to fall asleep in the car before when get home. This morning, I randomly pointed out a truck for May while we were on a city street (I point out everything to keep her highness entertained). She started saying “”truck truck… bá bá” I was slow to catch onto the meanings, so I thought, weird, why is she saying the truck going bye bye? May then said “đượt! đượt …heo” I thought, weird, it’s a red light, she knows we only can go (được) on a green light, and what pig is she referring to? Then she said, “vroom vroom!”
OOHH! I got it. What she actually said was ” truck, bắt, rượt theo” and finally, as her last ditch effort to communicate, she described the sound of our fast moving car. I asked her, “you want me to chase and catch up with that truck right?” YES was her answer. Alright! Message decoded.


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happenings right now


November 2010
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