War Porn  (2016) by Roy Scranton is not a book to be easily read. To be read, yes, but not easily. Often mentioned in lists of “best contemporary war fiction,” and long on my reading list, it was sent to me by a friend who is as confounded as I am by mankind’s continuous rallying to the flag of war despite the mountains of bodies over which it flies.

Earlier, “first wave”  participant written books from the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions,  as one reviewer has called them, share certain themes:

“… they tend to be obsessed with telling readers that war is awful, our post-9/11 conflicts were quagmires, but all our veterans were just good guys doing the best they could with a bad situation.”

The “tragic but redemptive mission” says David Buchanan in his rich study of war narrative: Going Scapegoat, Post–9/11 War Literature, Language and Culture 

Not so War Porn.  Not much redemption to be found.  It will be harder to toss off a reflexive “thank you for your service” to an unknown veteran having entered into these lives. They are fictional lives, yes, but not very.  Scranton himself is an American veteran of the Iraq war;  his narrator is there when US contractors are hung and burned in Falluja, and during the revelations of Abu Ghraib.

In post-novel interviews, Scranton has said that the preoccupation of today’s war literature with “the trauma hero myth” has warped American perception of war.  In focusing on “the revelatory truth of combat experience” he says, “and the psychological trauma American soldiers have had to endure we allow ourselves to forget the death and destruction those very soldiers are responsible for.” As he shows us. Continue reading »

Print Friendly, PDF & Email