In the ten years that I’ve been a bookseller by trade, by far the biggest perk of the job has been meeting authors face-to-face. I’ve attended countless book signings & lectures, shook thousands of famous (or relatively famous) hands, all while on the clock. (This perk might be better than the free books, actually.) Granted, sometimes meeting “The Author” is a bit of a disappointment – maybe you love their work a little too much, have built them up to deification in your own head, and their in-person personality turns out to be a little lackluster. Sometimes they’re just assholes. (People are assholes sometimes, it’s okay to say so.) No, I’m not going to name names. Wait, I’m getting off point here. Most of the time – at least 99% – it’s reaffirming, in a way, to put a face & a voice to the creator of the written word you’ve enjoyed so much. Sometimes, the experience of meeting that person surpasses all expectations & transcends into something else entirely. This was the case with Mr. Sebastian Junger this past Monday evening in San Diego.
Junger (you know, The Perfect Storm?) was appearing at Warwick’s to discuss and sign his latest book, War, (also a 2010 Catapult Notable Notable book) which is a chronicle of the 15 months he spent in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan with the Army’s 173rd Airborne. (His time spent there also resulted in the film Restrepo.) The Korengal is a horrible place, due to all the shooting, bombing, & killing and is perhaps the most violent place on earth right now (he witnessed 4 firefights with Taliban soldiers on the day he arrived in camp). His book is, as he says, “about men’s reaction to combat – which is a complex thing. It’s not simple, it’s probably not what civilians expect, but it needs to be understood….”
So, like I said, I’ve witnessed a lot of author talks, but the one delivered by Mr. Junger was far and away the best one I have ever had the privilege of seeing. He was erudite, courteous, polite, candid, & wholeheartedly honest in his assessment of what is happening in Afghanistan right now – at least as far as he saw in the Korengal.
So, I know that the video is crazy long, but you owe it to yourself to watch at least some of it. (Please forgive the jumpy video at the start – not my fault, I promise.)