Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Philip Gourevitch's new book about Abu Ghraib, Standard Operating Procedure, is finally out in stores. His last book, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, is one of my favorite books of all time - not just as a work of journalism but as an investigation into the nature of evil.

I'm copying and pasting Amazon's description of the book, and their mini-blurb about the authors:
Standard Operating Procedure is a war story that takes its place among the classics. It is the story of American soldiers who were sent to Iraq as liberators only to find themselves working as jailers in Saddam Hussein’s old dungeons, responsible for implementing the sort of policy they were supposed to be fighting against. It is the story of a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves—the story of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse, as seen through the eyes, and told through the voices, of the soldiers who took them and appeared in them. It is the story of how those soldiers were at once the instruments of a great injustice and the victims of a great injustice.

In a tradition of moral and political reckoning, and all-powerful story-telling, that runs from Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor to Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, Philip Gourevitch has written a relentlessly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror. Drawing on more than two hundred hours of Errol Morris’s startlingly frank and intimate interviews with the soldier-photographers who gave us what have become the iconic images of the Iraq war, Standard Operating Procedure is a book that makes you see, and makes you feel, and above all makes you think about what it means to be human. It is an utterly original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines—a work of searing power from two of our finest masters of nonfiction, working at the peak of their powers.


Philip Gourevitch is the award-winning author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda and A Cold Case. He is the editor of The Paris Review and a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker.

Errol Morris is a world-renowned filmmaker-the Academy Award-winning director of The Fog of War and the recipient of a MacArthur genius award. His other films include Mr. Death, Fast Cheap & Out of Control, A Brief History of Time, and The Thin Blue Line.
I'm still only halfway through The Great War for Civilization, but I may have to set it aside for a while. This is going to be the book of the summer, if not the year.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I've been a vegetarian for 13 years now, and one of the things I've missed the most was marshmallows.  No marshmallows in hot chocolate, no smores, no Rice Krispy Treats.  Those are some seriously comforting comfort foods.

I find it hardest not to eat things that have meat products, but don't resemble meat in any way - meat doesn't really look like food to me anymore, or trigger hunger pains.  But skittles and jello and marshmallows look so harmless and delicious.

Well, Whole Foods - at least the one by my work - has just started carrying vegan marshmallows.  There's been a gourmet marshmallow craze lately and I'd been hoping that someone would cook something up for the niche market of vegetarians, and it's finally happened.  

I can't compare them to proper marshmallows - it's been too long since I've had one - but they have that powdery outside that I remember, they are soft and sticky but not gooey and don't dissolve quickly in hot chocolate.  Exactly what I'd been missing.

I've been having hot chocolate with a marshmallow in it almost every day for the past couple of weeks.  It's just been such a treat.

If you're interested...

Broadsheet at Salon.com has been one of my favorite daily reads for a while - short, bloggy articles about women's issues in the news, whatever they may be.  One of those articles pointed me today to Letters from Johns, and its companion site Letters from Working Girls.

I've been reading some of the letters from Johns, and they are pretty fascinating.