Today's blog is about books and authors - two very different authors from different genres, yet strangely connected.
Last night, while I was watching a TIVO'd version of NCIS: Los Angeles, a bunch of terminology about Navy SEALs was bandied about. Coincidentally, I knew what Hell Week and swim buddy and BUD/S meant, because I'd literally just finished an amazing book called The Lone Survivor. Apparently this book was a huge hit back in 2007, but somehow I missed it. I'm not sure why I picked it up at the library, but I am so glad that I did.
To say this book is harrowing is weak, about as weak as Marcus Luttrell, the author and recently retired Navy SEAL, made me feel as he told his story. It's riveting, heartbreaking, and inspiring, and when I finished it, I felt what can only be described as patriotic sadness: a mixture of awe, gratitude and pride that men like the SEALs are out there, and sadness that they have to be.
Mr. Luttrell has a lot of anger against the liberal media, and many of his readers seem to think that it was a triumph of "America" over liberalism when the book made it to #1 on the NYTimes bestseller list. I don't get that, but I believe Mr. Luttrell is largely justified; I wanted to kick my TV when I read that the media was proclaiming him dead before the Navy had. He also has a love for Texas that I don't understand, being a jaded Northerner, but I cried hardest when I read about the roar that went up at the Luttrell's Texas ranch when the word came back that he had survived.
I do think Mr. Luttrell missed a theme in his tale, however. The death of his comrades occurred in a vicious firefight with the Taliban, brought on, we are led to believe, by the fact that Mr. Luttrell and his teammates made the decision to let unarmed civilians live. Those unarmed civilians, it is assumed, alerted the Taliban, thus precipitating the battle.
Later, Mr. Luttrell is rescued by Pashtun Afghani villagers, who could very easily have turned him over to the Taliban. They chose to let him live, and to defend him with their lives. The parallel seemed obvious to me; but it wasn't discussed. It's probably just my naivete leaking through, but I wish it had been.
On the heels of this soul-searching read, this morning I listened to a talk by James Patterson, author of the Alex Cross books and, I learned to my delight, a whole host of other books that I will enjoy reading over the next few weeks.
Mr. Patterson was sarcastic, funny and opinionated; when asked if he worries that people will copycat the horrible crimes he creates in his books, his "no" was firm, and followed by the following quote (paraphrased, but as accurate as I can make it): "Listen, the book that has inspired the most serial killers is the Bible. I don't know what we do with that." The room gasped and might have booed, but he was off into his next joke, and for the moment, it was forgotten.
But I won't forget it. It reminds me of something Mr. Luttrell said in his book, about how so much death and destruction has been visited on the world in the name of Islam. And like Mr. Patterson said, "I don't know what we do with that." But I do know this: I am lucky that the SEALs and other service men and women are fighting for me and my freedoms. And I'm also lucky that authors like Mr. Patterson are fighting a different battle, teaching kids to read and think for themselves. I want to believe its the same fight. Naive? Perhaps. But I'm sticking to it.