elliot ackerman with phil klay @ mcnally jackson!


this post is a week late (this event took place on 2015 february 19); my apologies for that!  i thought about doing a triptych of ackerman and klay like with my van den berg/lacey post, but, idk, to be honest, i thought that triptych was weird, so here's the pie i ate before the ackerman/klay event and the times building during saturday's snow.

i feel like i should also add a disclaimer that i haven't read either elliot ackerman or phil klay yet.

  • they talked about the writing of the ackerman's book (green on blue) as a last act of friendship because the novel is dedicated to afghan soldiers ackerman advised while in afghanistan.  klay asked, "what was that last act?"
    • ackerman:  "i think we have a certain conception of war in this country."  one example is that we think of war as having a start and end, and ackerman didn't think these conceptions of war were any that the afghan soldiers could recognize.  to them, war is more cyclical and has economies (not only monetary economies but social economies, &c) built around them.
  • green on blue attack = when an afghan soldier turns on his adviser
    • ackerman wondered what happens when the cause you're fighting for threatens to turn on you.
    • he talked about how he was in afghanistan, interacting very closely with afghans then going back home (or to his tent) to see the very 2D portrayals in the news of afghans.
    • he wanted to peel back the green on blue attack as far as he could.  a green on blue attack occurs in the novel (obviously), but, if it made his reader question or understand it even if s/he didn't agree, he felt that the novel had done its job.
  • ackerman:  "i'm very hesitant to cast moral judgment on my characters."
  • the siren song of war:  if he were to count out the best days of his life on his two hands, at least one hand would be days he was in combat.  at the same time, if he were to count out the worst days of his life, at least one hand would be days he was in combat.  what does that say about him?
  • when you're writing about war, it's about the place you're writing from.  when he set out to write this book, he wasn't thinking about his experiences at war or about politics.  he was thinking of himself as a brother (there are brothers in the novel).
  • klay:  "we're used to this idea of 'going to war.'"  in our conceptions, we think of going to war and coming back home.
    • all wars are not the same:  ackerman tried to explore that, how it wasn't such a tactical war that foresaw a clear end that would let the afghans go home to their fields or the americans to business school.
  • they held movie nights on thursday nights, projecting them on a white sheet, but it was a challenge to find movies the afghans would enjoy/understand.  for some reason, the most popular films were troy and rambo 3.
  • his small ambition is that the afghan soldiers he served with would recognize their war [in his book].
  • he finds the branding of any opposers as terrorists to be incredibly reductive and incredibly dangerous because of the lack of nuanced understanding.
  • "there are so many levels of complexity in this thing that is war."
  • one of the audience Qs was about american sniper.  klay said that he was finding the discourse around american sniper to be more interesting than the film itself.  it's always been a Q for him, "what is the civilian's relationship to the people who fight our war?"  this is a conversation we need to be having.
  • klay:  "we tend to separate out war like it's this distinctive experience, but it's another category of the human experience."
  • ackerman touched upon war as being foundational to the human experience.