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Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War Paperback – June 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An American reporter takes in one Middle East cataclysm after another in this searing memoir. Los Angeles Times correspondent Stack covered the war in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, then bounced around to other hot-spot postings, including Israel during the second Intifada, occupied Baghdad, and southern Lebanon during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Stack offers gripping accounts of the sorrows of war, especially of the traumas Afghan and Lebanese civilians endured under American and Israeli bombing, but she also writes evocatively of quieter pathologies: Libya's jovially sinister totalitarian regime, corruption under Egypt's quasi-dictatorship, and lyric anti-Semitism at a Yemeni poetry slam. Dropping journalistic detachment in favor of a novelistic style, she enters the story as a protagonist whose travails—fending off a lecherous Afghan warlord, seething under the humiliating restrictions of Saudi Arabia's gender apartheid system—illuminate the societies she encounters. The big-picture lessons Stack draws—The Middle East goes crazy and we go along with it—are none too cogent, but her vivid, atmospheric prose and keen empathy make her a superb observer of the region's horrific particulars. (Jun.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Society assigns war to the military, not the media, yet journalists venture into combat zones ahead of, alongside, and well after the troops whose stories they tell. As a 25-year-old correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Stack covered Afghanistan in the days immediately following 9/11, then traveled to other outposts in the war on terror, from Iraq to Iran, Libya, and Lebanon. In a disquieting series of essays, Stack now takes readers deep into the carnage where she was exposed to the insanity, innocence, and inhumanity of wars with no beginning, middle, or end. Her soaring imagery sears itself into the brain, in acute and accurate tales that should never be forgotten by the wider world, and yet always are. Stack grew increasingly demoralized with each new outburst of hostilities, and clearly covering the violence took its emotional toll: the uncomfortable hypocrisy of Abu Ghraib, the unconscionable confusion over women’s subjugation, the unfathomable intricacies of tribal allegiances. Anyone wishing to understand the Middle East need only look into the faces of war that Stack renders with exceptional humanity—the bombers as well as the bureaucrats, the rebels and the refugees, the victors and the victims. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767930347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767930345
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,130,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The ability to see. And then to report what is truly seen, without the eyes being averted due to "editorial concerns." Can it be taught in journalism school, or is it an innate moral compass one is born with?

Initially I was skeptical of this book; the title is a bit off-putting (that was before I learned that it refers to one of world's oldest logic problems; and has ample applications to all involved in the so-called war on terror). And then it was written by a journalist, a woman at that, who was unfamiliar with war when she started. Enough reasons for some justified unease. Fortunately a good friend recommended it; he even wanted to check out the validity of certain portions of the book, those on Saudi Arabia, with me. And so when it popped up on my Vine Newsletter, I had to say: "Yes, please." The best decision I made the entire week.

Megan K. Stack is a remarkable person. She had been in Paris on September 11, 2001; soon thereafter she was on the Afghanistan - Pakistan frontier, reporting on the hunt for Bin Laden. She appears to have come to the so-called "War on Terror" unencumbered by theoretical models of the Islamic world formulated in America's various think-tanks and university "Middle East Studies Centers." She espoused none of the theories of the fictional "York Harding," as described in Graham Greene's The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition). Her assignments thereafter carry her to Israel, Iraq, Libya, "Kurdistan," Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt. When she gets "shut out," meaning that she really cannot cut through the government-imposed barriers on journalists, like in the Yemen, she says so.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In September 2001, Megan K. Stack, then a 25-year-old journalist with the Los Angeles Times, was in Paris. After 9/11 she was thrown into a journalistic breach and sent to Afghanistan. That happenstance introduced her to the War on Terror and a harrowing six years of reporting on that War, as pursued in Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq, with side-trips to Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt. EVERY MAN IN THIS VILLAGE IS A LIAR is her memoir of those six years, her account of some of the incidents and experiences more indelibly seared on her memory.

The value of the book lies not in its analysis. For Stack, the War on Terror defies analysis; indeed, it defies comprehension. In her Prologue, she writes:

"Only after covering it for years did I understand that the war on terror never really existed. It was not a real thing. Not that the war on terror was flawed, not that it was cynical or self-defeating, or likely to breed more resentment and violence. But that it was hollow, it was essentially nothing but a unifying myth for a complicated scramble of mixed impulses and social theories and night terrors and cruelty and business interests * * *."

So don't look to this book for calm, measured analysis. Its value, instead, is its anecdotal eyewitness reports of sundry events whose only cohesion is as a relentless parade of madness and mayhem. The book is episodic, so that the overarching picture, to the extent there is one, is in the nature of a surrealistic mosaic, perhaps a 21st Century version of Peter Bruegel's painting in the Prado, "The Triumph of Death".

Stack's writing is decent, but not always graceful. Too many of her metaphors are awkward. ("A plane lumbered overhead, slicing white blood from a bright winter sky.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON VINE VOICE on September 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Megan Stack is a journalist, in my own opinion a superlative journalist. Following the 9/11 attacks she was detailed to cover the various situations in the Middle East and wherever we are to locate Afghanistan. She was in her 20's, younger (she tells us) than she realised, and `extremely American'. She disclaims any strong convictions, stating that as a journalist she only `wanted to see'. Well, she has the eyes to see with, she has seen with them, and she has the skill to let us see via them. She does not like any of what she sees, and small wonder. However this set of reports is no kind of tract. She takes us with her to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and we accompany her in her attempts to make what sense can be made of it.

Mr Rumsfeld once said with admirable clarity that policy analysis had to be based on the known knowns and the known unknowns. There are known to be unknown unknowns, but apart from knowing that much, we can't in the nature of the case feature these in our decisions. Fair enough, but knowing is one thing, and understanding is something else entirely. There are ways of failing to understand plain facts that are looking us in the eye, and they stem from prejudice, patriotism and preconception. There is also often a challenge in trying to make sense of the plain facts, and that, similarly, requires a mind that is not pre-programmed. Megan Stack has the right kind of mind, and at the very beginning and near the end of her book she summarises one of her overall conclusions. The version of this in her prologue is, perhaps, slightly startling. Says she `the war on terror never really existed. It was not a real thing...
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