As Americans, we have expectations and prejudices of how a war should be fought. We draft these preconceived notions from our perceived history of long, but not forgotten wars. The problem is, these notions are derived from movies, from propaganda, from glory stories passed down generations. The fictionalization of the wartime lives of our alleged war heroes has been mistaken for fact. In the era of instant communication, we can be nothing but let down by our heroes.
The reality is that, given technology, wars are more administered than fought. Many of our ‘heroes’ never leave relative security, never experience war as more than an extended discomfort in a foreign desert. These so-called fobbits, the administrators of war from a forward operating base, lead wartime lives of tedium, experiencing pressure more from drafting a press release than from bullets, grenades or rockets. For some, the pressure lies in maintaining the heroic image of the American war experience, despite the realities, the failures.
The first pass of David Abram’s FOBBIT left me screaming for a plot. The meandering tale of a unit in Baghdad, Iraq provides more characterization than direction. Like a rocket-propelled grenade whistling through the sky searching for its target, I was hit. This is what deployment is like: the long hours, the tedium, the routine, the occasional surge for a questionable goal. Within these pages lies a very accurate depiction of the Iraqi War experience.
In mathematics, such associative precision in a function, is called one-to-one correspondence. FOBBIT reads as such a function. My husband, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and former submarine officer, can assign a classmate or shipmate to every character in Fobbit. Disturbingly, Abe Shrinkle, with his dangerous incompetence and inflated projection of self, was the easiest to identify. I wonder if David Abrams’ former company-mates can identify themselves in his novel.
FOBBIT receives the nod of a soldier’s been-there-done-exactly-that. Recall, relive or experience for the first time the in-country life of the American soldier. The frustration to madness, the humor of the absurd, the every soldier experience: it’s all there.
Grove Atlantic, September 2012