The Art of War
Is Phil Klay's debut short story collection the best book about the Iraq War? --Kevin Nguyen
“Success was a matter of perspective. In Iraq it had to be.” This opening line, from one of the stories in Phil Klay's impressive debut collection, Redeployment, encapsulates what the book does best: through the many viewpoints represented by his twelve stories, Klay gives us not just a gripping portrait of the Iraq War but a glimpse into the true human cost of war, abroad and at home.
Though the United States entered Afghanistan and Iraq over a decade ago, novels about those conflicts have only begun gaining critical and commercial attention in the past few years. Kevin Powers's The Yellow Birds, was one of the most talked about books of 2012; the same year, Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Both books were finalists for the National Book Award and included in our own Best of the Year list.
Powers and Fountain took very different approaches to the Iraq War. The Yellow Birds is a moving, often lyrical story that follows the tradition of in-the-trenches war fiction, taking hints from such classics as The Things They Carried all the way back to All Quiet on the Western Front (Powers is a veteran who received his MFA after returning to the U.S.); in contrast, Billy Lynn is more of a satire, taking place on home turf as the surviving members of Bravo Squad are paraded out during the halftime show of a Dallas Cowboys game.
Tonally and thematically, Redeployment falls somewhere in between these two novels. In its diversity of viewpoints, Klay has composed a complicated portrait of the war and its psychological effect on Iraq and at home in the States. Like Yellow Birds, these stories are moving and subtly philosophical; like Billy Lynn, Redeployment isn't afraid to be funny, to be brash.
Read the full review on Omnivoracious.