MediaMonday for Novembe 19, 2012: How Dead is the Book Business? Source media by Adam Davidson in the New York Times, November 13, 2012.
Every generation has its great war novels. Those which endure through the years are as much about characters as they are tactics and missions. This Wednesday, November 21, 2012, we’ll discuss the war novel and on Friday, November 23, we’re in for a treat when David Abrams joins us as guest host to discuss his novel, Fobbit.
Fobbit. Rhymes with hobbit; a U.S. soldier stationed at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) whose job is performed within the confines of the base, e.g. clerks, cooks, mechanics, and spin soldiers. Fobbits never venture into the war zone [read: the city of Baghdad] outside the compound gates.
Just as James Heller’s Catch-22 cast a new idiom into global usage, thanks to Abram’s darkly comic novel of the Iraqi war, expect to hear the word fobbit forged on the lips of hipsters, geeks and everyone in between. And like Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel MASH took readers into the surgical theater of war, so does Abram’s novel take us into the world of military spin doctors whose job is transforming tragedy into palatable pulp for the world’s hard-edged media and an American public growing weary of a war with blurry objectives.
There’s always one normal character in a cast of crazies. In Fobbit, it’s Chance Gooding Jr., a staff sergeant assigned to the pubic affairs [read: public relations] office at the fictional FOB Triumph, set in a fictional former palace of Saddam Hussein. It’s Gooding’s first first tour of duty in Iraq and he’s keeping a journal of wickedly keen observations about the people, the politics, and the absurdities of his job. There’s his boss, Lt. Colonel Eustace Harkleroad, whose letters to his mother recounting heroic deeds are as fictional as the novels Gooding reads in his spare time. We meet Captain Abe Shrinkle, whose teetering between indecision and impetuosity are masterfully cringe-worthy and yet laughable. Almost normal, considering what he’s seen and done through his Army career, is Lt. Colonel Vic Duret [read: Victory] whose eye on the prize is not winning the war, so much as getting home to his wife’s breasts and his beloved dog.
Each of these four characters feature largely in chapters told in omniscient POV, taking readers into the heads of a zany cast of misfits, missles and machines. While there isn’t an obvious story arc building to a massive climax in Fobbit, like war itself, it’s one event after another in episodic advancement to conclusion. Fobbit isn’t a war story, as much as a brilliant workplace dramedy set in the theater of war.
Abrams retired in 2008 after a 20-year career in the active-duty Army as a journalist. He was named the Department of Defense’s Military Journalist of the Year in 1994 and received several other military commendations throughout his career. His tours of duty took him to Thailand, Japan, Africa, Alaska, Texas, Georgia and The Pentagon. In 2005, he joined the 3rd Infantry Division and deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The journal he kept during that year formed the blueprint for the novel which would later become known as Fobbit.
A native of Pennsylvania, Abrams grew up in Jackson, Wyoming. He earned a BA in English from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Narrative, Salon, Electric Literature, The Literarian, Connecticut Review, The Greensboro Review, Five Chapters, The Missouri Review, and many other places. He regularly blogs about the literary life at The Quivering Pen. He now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife.
Follow David Abrams on Twitter: @ImDavidAbrams.