As I read The Savage War I found myself comparing it to Hiroshima, which we read earlier in the year as a component for Journalism class. I found a drastic difference in the story telling styles of the two journalists. I preferred that of Hersey in Hiroshima.
I found The Savage War difficult to read because it felt more like a story than a summary of what happened. In Hiroshima, I felt as though I was reading a long article with very little personal opinion from the author. The editorializing from Brewster in this book really weighed down my interest. His opinions clouded the story and over exhausted moments.
Examples of editorializing:
Page 94 "They chatted in stiff, high-backed, Queen Anne-style chairs before an unlit, grey marble fireplace in the heavily guarded presidential palace. Karzai wore a sport coat over his white shalwar kameez. He was without his trademark green-and-purple cloak and his karakul, the grey wedge cap he usually wore. "
Page 171 "He has weathered charm and lined face of a grandfather. Maybe it was the sweater vest. I'd never seen anyone wear a knitted sweater vest over a shalwar kameez. ......Kandahar was as hard on the faces of its people as it was on windows.
These extra details removed me from the story. I found myself drifting off and wondering why they were included. This was not an easy read and being over descriptive and more fruitful didn't fit in with the theme and was jarring to me as a reader.
Another thing I didn't like about the book was the way he spoke about women. I feel like every time he brought up women in the story he was stereotypical and condescending. Most females were described with overtly feminine qualities that could stereotypically be cast upon any woman. I feel like most of his female orientated commentary could have been left out, or introduced in a different manner.
Page 68 "The fact that Goddard now sat before me in the middle of war zone seemed both remarkable and gently inspiring. It was evident by the conversation that she fussed over them; several times she referred to team as "my crew."
The way he uses the word fuss really irritates me. Not to mention that he doesn't just call her inspiring, he calls her gently inspiring. Was that necessary? And what does that even mean?
Page 179 "With beauty-queen poise she spewed such ugliness it made you cringe."
I understand that he chose to use the word beauty-queen poise to make a large contrast against the ugliness spewed, but I feel as though he could have left it out. If what she was talking about was so disgusting, did her beauty really add anything to it? Wouldn’t it be just as vile if a man was delivering the news? Is it harder to hear disconcerting truths from a woman?
I was weary of Desert Lions because it was paid and edited by the military, so how much truth could really come from it? But I found the truths presented relatable. On a second note due to Brewster's opinion on women I basically second guessed everything he said. I took his opinion very lightly, which took away from the read because I wasn't connecting with his writing. Even though I'm sure the documentary, Desert Lions left a lot out I still trusted the voice that was presenting it to me. I wanted to listen because he has valid points to make. I did not trust the point of view of Brewster.
What can a journalist learn:
Don't alienate people. As Brewster said his goal for this book was that people would pause and think about what went on, and what is going on in Afghanistan. I think the way he told the story hindered my "pausing moment". I took more negative feelings away from the book than I did take time to reflect. I think he should have considered his audience more.
But what I can learn from this as a foreign correspondent, things aren't fair and you have to move on. And that YOU are the journalist, not the person taking you around, not the army Sargent who wants a certain story, and not the government who wants some positivity. Your name will be on the by-line, so tell the story you want the public to know, the story the public should know.
Tell the truth and leave the rest out.