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Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
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Last One In (P.S.)

by Nicholas Kulish

The Lighter Side of a Quagmire

A review by Meryl Rothstein

It makes sense that Nicholas Kulish would write a pretty good novel about an embedded journalist in Iraq. When he worked for the Wall Street Journal, he was one.

Recently named the New York Times Berlin bureau chief, Kulish focuses his book, Last One In, on a gossip columnist whose paper forces him to replace an injured war correspondent who shares the same name. Once in Iraq, he couldn't be more out of place -- a metrosexual in a gas mask. And although his transition from designer suits and twenty-dollar cocktails to bulletproof vests and surreptitious pulls of Listerine provide much of the book's humor (and plot), the best parts are actually the secondary ones, when Kulish writes about what he really knows: a world where war reporters are too jaded to attend WMD lectures and Marines pass the time by debating the sexuality of Metallica's James Hetfield. It's the kind of stuff that doesn't make it into newspapers -- moments that illuminate the everyday humor and struggles of war. And if you skim the more tedious parts of the gossip columnist's story, it's the kind of stuff that makes Last One In a compelling read.

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