Winner of the 2007 Blooker Prize
Synopses & Reviews
A raw, edgy, yet intimate new voice from the front lines in Iraq-the most authentic we have had yet from the war, heralding this generation's Catch-22
Like many of his generation, Colby Buzzell was jumping from one dead-end job to another, a paycheck away from moving back home. He spent his time skateboarding and killing as many brain cells as humanly possible. Tired of the monotony, he found himself in front of an army recruiter. Within months he was in Iraq, a machine gunner in the controversial Stryker Brigade Combat Team, an army unit on the cutting edge of combat technology, and the first of its kind.
This is the startlingly honest story of a young man and a war. Trapped amid guerilla warfare, urban-style in Mosul, Iraq, Buzzell was struck by the bizarre, absurd, often frightening world surrounding him. He began writing an online web log describing the war not as it was being reported by CNN or in briefings on Capitol Hill, but as he experienced it. The result is an extraordinary narrative, rich with unforgettable scenes: the fierce firefight in which the resistance came from men in black; chain-smoking in the guard tower, counting the tracer rounds fired over the city; the raid on an Iraqi home during which a woman couldn't stop screaming as her husband was being taken away; and the hesitation of a young soldier who had been passed around from platoon to platoon because he was too afraid to fight. As the popularity of his blog grew, Buzzell became the embedded reporter the army couldn't control despite its best and often hilarious efforts to do so.
My War is the debut of a fresh and remarkable voice, and it is already being compared to the classics ofyouth and combat Herr's Dispatches and Heller's Catch-22. But My War is much more than a war story; it is the story of a generation caught between the hyper-reality of a technological age and an ever more complicated and dangerous world.
"With this relentlessly cynical volume, Buzzell converts his widely read 2004 blog into an episodic but captivating memoir about the year he spent serving as an army 'trigger puller' in Iraq. Posted to Mosul in late 2003, Buzzell's platoon was ordered 'to locate, capture and kill all non compliant forces.' Accordingly, his entries describe experiences pursuing elusive guerrillas (aka 'men in black'); enduring sniping, rocket and mortar attacks; and witnessing the occasional car bomb. Face-to-face fighting almost never occurs. No matter: though the combat scenes are exciting, this book is actually more engrossing as a portrait of the day-to-day life of a young American soldier who has 'read, and re-read, countless times, every single one of [Bukowski's] books.' Like Bukowski, Buzzell appears to be a sentimental misanthrope; he pours scorn on everyone from cooks to generals to President Bush. He also despises the media, the antiwar movement and everyone who thinks they understand what's happening in Iraq. That his superiors kept their hands off his blog for several months, however, shows they understood that despite its foul language, griping, insults directed at higher officers and occasional exposure of dirty linen Buzzell's work never really wavers in its portrayal of American forces as the good guys in a dirty war." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] book that stands quite tall in the literature of that conflict to date." Booklist
"My War...is nothing less than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war on our behalf in Iraq." Kurt Vonnegut
"If military recruitment is down now, wait till the kidsread this book." Kirkus Reviews
"With Buzzell's return to the States and the close of an effective soldier's life, neither he nor the reader is sure that he has not come full circle and returned to his civilian life of loss. Recommended." Library Journal
"Buzzell experienced plenty of firefights in the northern city of Mosul, but there were countless patrols and other duties that required terrific strength just to stay awake....[T]he book's most compelling writing comes not from Buzzell, but his battalion commander, who wrote Buzzell an e-mail after the blog became internationally famous." Seattle Times
The most extraordinary writing yet produced by a soldier of the Iraq war. (Esquire)
“I remember reading Colby's journal entries on the internet when he was filing them from Iraq and being amazed at how, besides how heavy the material was, how sharp and vividly intense his writing was. My War
is the real deal reportage from the ground. There's no way any reporter could have brought this back. If you care about our brave soldiers in the fray and want to get an insight into what it's really like out there, My War
is essential reading...I'll take Colby's word over a journalist's any day.” —Henry Rollins
“Soul-jarring observations and darkly comedic insights into what it really means to be fighting and idling in this war.” —Los Angeles Times Magazine
“Reminiscent of Michael Herr’s Dispatches.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkably blunt, honest, and often hilarious.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Profound, profane...told with irresistible gallows humor and anger devoid of self-consciousness. Give[s] us a much deeper understanding of war.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A style reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson...fueled by an anti-authority, punk-rock attitude.” —Poets and Writers
“Striking...with a steeliness that’s both sincere and chilling.” —People
“If military recruitment is down now, wait till the kids read this book.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In gutsy, sometimes profane prose, he takes you on a soldier’s-eye view of the front lines of the war.” —Newsweek
“Captivating memoir about the year [Buzzell] spent serving as an army ‘trigger puller’ in Iraq....though the combat scenes are exciting, this book is actually more engrossing as a portrait of the day-to-day life of a young American soldier.” —Publishers Weekly
“My War is the story of a young grunt trying to survive...What you soon realize about this stranger at the bar, Colby Buzzell, is that he can knock you off your barstool at a moment’s notice with soul-jarring observations and darkly comedic insights into what it really means to be fighting and idling in this war.” —Los Angeles Times Magazine
“Provid[es] more truth than CNN or the army could or would.” —Library Journal
“Incredible accounts of combat from a grunt’s-eye view.” —Rolling Stone
“Funny, often surreal ‘What the @!%# am I doing here?’ account of military life.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Breathtaking...Buzzell’s self-awareness is total and unromantic, his instinct for what matters unrelenting, his writing lyrical, heartbreaking, hilarious, and essential.” —Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
“Raw, sardonic, and thrashingly honest, My War is a stellar grunt’s-eye view of the Iraq war.” —Men’s Journal
An underemployed, skateboarding party animal, Colby Buzzell traded a dead-end future for the army—and ended up as a machine gunner in Iraq. To make sense of the absurd and frightening events surrounding him, he started writing a blog about the war—and how it differed from the government’s official version. But as his blog’s popularity grew, Buzzell became the embedded reporter the Army couldn’t control—despite its often hilarious efforts to do so.
The result is an extraordinary narrative, rich with unforgettable scenes: the Iraqi woman crying uncontrollably during a raid on her home; the soldier too afraid to fight; the troops chain-smoking in a guard tower and counting tracer rounds; the first, fierce firefight against the “men in black.” Drawing comparisons to everything from Charles Bukowski to Catch-22, My War depicts a generation caught in a complicated and dangerous world—and marks the debut of a raw, remarkable new voice.
About the Author
Colby Buzzell lived in the San Francisco Bay area until he enlisted in the Army at the age of 26 to straighten out his life. He served two years, including a year in Iraq.