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Babylon by Bus: Or true story of two friends who gave up valuable franchise selling T-shirts to find meaning & adventure in Iraq where they became employed by the Occupation... Hardcover – August 3, 2006
From Publishers Weekly
What do you get when you mix a couple of booze-guzzling, Valium-addled, 20-something slackers from urban America with centuries-old sectarian hatred and a dubious war? Well, you get this alternately lame, alternately compelling tale from the first year after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. At loose ends, T-shirt merchants (selling "Yankees suck" at Fenway) Lemoine and Neumann decide to head out to Iraq by way of Israel. Having passed on an opportunity to go to Baghdad earlier in the war—"During Iraq's looting, the thought of loading up a stolen Lamborghini with Persian rugs and Baathist booty had crossed our minds. Stupid, I know"—these scalawags quickly find themselves in the middle of the Green Zone in Baghdad, scamming their way into jobs managing an NGO, dodging angry mobs in Sadr City and partying with just about everybody in town. Along with the boozing ("Jeff and I awoke at the NPR house with searing hangovers from a night of booze and pills"), there's a lot of name-dropping (among many others, Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker). Not entirely without merit, the book does capture a sense of the madness of postwar Iraq. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
LeMoine and Jeff Neuman had it easy; instead of finishing college, they spent the summer months selling "Yankees Suck" -T-shirts outside Fenway Park and spent the rest of the year traveling the world. But when their beloved Red Sox lost the 2003 American League Championship to the Yankees in a do-or-die game-seven matchup, they decided not to go back to Boston and instead made the unlikely choice of traveling to Israel and then right into Baghdad, ground zero of the Iraq War. Going to Iraq with the intention of providing humanitarian aid in a war they did not support, they ended up working as volunteers for Paul Beemer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the agency that was supposed to provide interim command and support prior to establishing the new Iraqi government. The boys' position of being both outsiders and insiders provides a unique perspective on the war that is miles away from anything found through the "normal" news channels. It is a complex, harrowing, frustrating, and heartbreaking account of the American occupation in Iraq. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
It was with a fair degree of humor that read about the khaki clad contractors all over the place-- yes I was one of those REI fashionistas - and these guys are right. CPA (aka OCPA, ORHA) was a really different place. Thankfully I had a simple job with a limited amount of time there.
With the book , I can follow the arc of decline through my own memories of driving down from BIAP to GZ in 2003 (in a toyota pickup) to doing the same commute via helicopter by fall of 2004.
While my job was short-term IT support inside the GZ and Camp Victory, I would often wonder what the rest of Baghdad was like - especially in late 2003. This book will give you a glimpse outside the controlled GZ area. You will get to know a group of young people that were probably the most effective at actually doing some good.
Get beyond the drugs and alcohol bits, carefully read observation and opinion sections. Who can judge harshly heavy Valium use in the middle of a very surreal war zone.
This is, however, the book to buy if the reader is interested in the experiences and views of two individuals with such backgrounds who actually do go to Iraq and manage, in some strange manner, to come out in one piece. Never a boring moment though the reader has to be able to cope with the perpetual stupidity of these two authors and their expected antics (i.e., experiences with narcotics, trying to find an apartment in war torn area outside of the Green Zone, wrecking vehicles, etc.). Many times, despite the comedy and entertainment value, the experience can be quite nerve wracking.
On the positive side, the audio book's voice is always enthusiastic, never monotone and hence never boring. As a result it can keep the listener entertained even on long trips. The only thing missing is the Beavis and Butthead theme music in the background.
The narrative is a mixture of analytical thought and blabber. Every now and then, there was a refreshing glimpse of everyday life in baghdad not covered in the mainstream media.
The authors' decision to visit and work in Baghdad was met with criticism from friends, family, and apparently a few reviewers on Amazon, but at least they experienced life in a way that most people wouldn't have the guts to.