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Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War Paperback – February 12, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

While the grand, noble causes of the past wars continue to capture our collective imaginations, the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated with greater ambivalence. Fire and Forget, a collection of short stories by authors who are also military veterans (or, in one case, a family member), captures the messiness of soldiering when the mission and endgame are unclear. Though fiction, each work reads true, filled with tension, fear, and anger. Readers are transported to desert checkpoints, ride along with vehicle convoys, and return home from combat to face an uncertain future. Standouts include Andrew Slater’s “New Me,” a sobering glimpse inside the mind of a soldier who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. In “Tips for a Smooth Transition,” Siobhan Fallon, an army wife, quotes from a manual that urges spouses to “set up a security plan” in the event that their husbands experience a vivid flashback. It’s a stark reminder that war, for combatants and their families, never truly ends. Writes Gavin Ford Kovite: “Heads they win, tails you lose.” --Patty Wetli

Review

"Searing stories from the war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the USA by warrior writers. Fire and Forget is about not forgetting. It is a necessary collection, necessary to write, necessary to read." - E.L. Doctorow

"I've been waiting for this book for a decade. I laughed, shouted, and cried while reading this kaleidoscopic collection. So many facets of war and the people who do our fighting are covered here. Fire and Forget is a literary history of this latest period of American wars. It's a profound and telling work of art." - Anthony Swofford

"A diverse anthology on our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan united by the extraordinary talents of its authors. These stories are exceptional." - Kevin Powers

"A resonant, moving collection of stories from writers who know firsthand about the incongruous beauty and constant tragedy of war." - Nathaniel Fick

"'War stories are almost never about war unless they're told by someone who was never there,' Jacob Siegel writes in the opening story of this superb collection. What's especially valuable here is to be reminded how deeply 'war stories' have penetrated American culture.... From Siobhan Fallon's moving anatomy of what a waiting spouse has to look forward to after her husband's third deployment, to Brian Van Reet's brilliant gloss on Hemingway's 'Big Two-Hearted River,' these stories mark the territory of Return, in a manner both rich and essential." - Anthony Giardina

Booklist, 1/1/13

“Captures the messiness of soldiering when the mission and endgame are unclear. Though fiction, each work reads true, filled with tension, fear, and anger. Readers are transported to desert checkpoints, ride along with vehicle convoys, and return home from combat to face an uncertain future.”



The Guardian (UK), 1/3/13

“The range of stories in Fire and Forget displays a remarkable depth and breadth of the experience of the Iraq war.”



WarOnTerrorNews, 1/3/13
“Like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, most of these 15 stories are so deceptively crafted that the impact sneaks up on the reader in an unexpected way…It seems like we're preconditioned to expect 700-page epic novels, but a 10-page short story can condense all the emotion down to its core essence. The editors have done a remarkable job at maintaining that discipline…It's a powerful collection; for now, probably the best, most comprehensive—fictional—look at the wars that has been written.”




The Fighting Leprechaun, 1/10/13

“Powerful… These short stories manage to capture the essence of what service members have experienced… There are a lot of essential truths packed into Fire and Forget. For those of us that have been there, or know people who served in these wars, it is important reading."




Acolytes of War, 1/21/13

 “Whether portraying the fantastical or the banal, the in-theater tales feature grunts’ eye perspectives on deployment, far from the sterile perspectives recounted in more official histories, memoirs, journalism, and government pronouncements…Hat’s off to all the Fire and Forget authors and editors.”




ForeWord, Spring 2013

“Deeply insightful…The writing is vivid and compelling, artfully selected by the editors…An important book…This collection deserves to be read.”



Internet Review of Books, 1/25/13

“As might be expected, these stories are intense; it's hard to read many of them in a single session. Yet contrary to expectations there's not much sameness in the telling. Each man or woman has his/her own story, each one unique. These are voices we all need to hear.”



East Bay Express, 2/5/13
“[A] remarkable collection…Not for the faint of heart, they are realistic, haunting, shocking, and unforgettable…This collection offers voices—powerful voices, telling the kind of truth that only fiction can offer.”




Joyce Carol Oates, Twitter.com, 2/9/13

“Brilliant intro by Colum McCann. Devastating stories.”



Daily Beast, 2/11/13

“A visceral, all-too-real collection of short stories by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…This is fiction as good as any you’ll read anywhere...These pages contain a record of the cost of our excursions abroad that is as illustrative as any culture can produce.”



Barnes and Noble Review, 2/15/13

“These rousing ‘Short Stories of the Long War’ are uniquely resonant.”



War on Terror News, 2/13/13

“Probably the best single representation of Iraq and Afghanistan-fiction that’s currently available. Novels like Fobbit and The Yellow Birds have done their part well—but one author’s voice can only go so far.”


Military Times, 1/6/2014

“You are unlikely to forget this fine fiction by 14 veterans and a veteran’s spouse. Known writers…contribute three of the 15 stories in this collection. Their work is solid but Fire also succeeds because of names the book introduces.”


Penthouse, February 2014

“The 15 works of fiction in this collection are powerful, poignant, and at times painful tales of the truths of war, written by men and women who were there—and one wife who was left behind.”

The Massachusetts Review website, January 2014

“Fire and Forget has lessons we civilians have yet to learn.”

Word & Film, 2/5/15
“Offer[s] diverse experiences of those affected by—and fighting—the Global War on Terror.”


Military Success Network, 2/12/13
“Its pages feature unique but iconic stories of war, homecoming, and the struggle for meaning in both...This collection paints a startling and bleak picture of Long War veterans and their lives during and after combat…That said, the voices of Fire and Forget ring true in their cynicism, pain, and humor. This is an important collection of fiction, not only because of its current-day relevancy, but also because of the strength of its diverse voices, all engaged in a search for truth among the desert sands of fiction and memory. It should not be missed by anyone with an interest in modern war or the veteran experience.”

Literary Aficionado, 2/22/13
“Penetrating stories from the hands of the damaged who have scribed the tensions, and anguish, the scars, the decimation of personal lives of those who returned home either physically maimed or mentally brutalized or both…These stories are so well edited that there is a variety of types of tales—some humorous, some that show that intense camaraderie that often peaks in a war zone, some about those left behind when the soldiers were fragged to distant lands…Some tattoo on the mind.”

New City, 2/26
“Nothing brings the reality of war home like hearing it from the hearts and minds of those who experienced it…Fire and Forget arrives at just the right time, when the last vestiges of conflict fall away…Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher have not only compiled an excellent diversity of experiences and vantage points into the war, but also a list of accomplished and gifted writers…The stories are by turns gritty and hilarious, poignant and rhapsodic, but there’s one thing they all share: they are all imbued with the deep love of their authors. Faced with something as unspeakably harrowing as war, the voices here have salvaged what small beauty they could from the turmoil…At no point is this an easy collection, but it is a necessary one.”

Roanoke Times, 3/1
“Gritty with realism…The tales are exceedingly well told. Fiction it may be, but none can deny the ring of truth.”

Bookviews, 2/22
“Anyone who served and anyone who wants to know what it was to serve will value this book.”

Library Journal, 3/15/13
“With wars come war stories and from those stories evolves literature. Leading this generation of war literature is this collection of short stories written by soldiers and a military spouse whose lives were directly affected by the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan…The encompassing and humanistic tone is the heart of this work…The honesty and authenticity of the stories are universal…Like Walter Dean Myers’s Sunrise Over Fallujah, these tales will appeal to readers of war and historical fiction.”

New York Daily News, 3/5/13
“Some of America’s greatest works of literature have come from its wars. Be it Stephen Crane, E.L. Doctorow, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, James Jones or Tim O’Brien, war has been memorialized, glorified, satirized and revealed in all its valor and depredation…Now, as another war comes to a close, a new generation of authors will come forward to define themselves through their own fictional narratives. Among the finest have been enlisted in Fire and Forget…Fire and Forget will not soon be forgotten.”

Street Roots, 2/28/13
“Representing a new generation of veterans-turned-authors, the contributors in Fire and Forget have returned home, at least physically, and are now sharing their works and sculpting the public’s perception of these wars and how they’ve impacted the warriors…Fire and Forget is an effective cultural text on multiple levels. Not only does it serve as a historical milepost, reminding us that we are waging the longest war in ou


Street Roots, 2/28/13
“Representing a new generation of veterans-turned-authors, the contributors in Fire and Forget have returned home, at least physically, and are now sharing their works and sculpting the public’s perception of these wars and how they’ve impacted the warriors…Fire and Forget is an effective cultural text on multiple levels. Not only does it serve as a historical milepost, reminding us that we are waging the longest war in ou

Tottenville Review, 5/22/13
“Every one of the voices in Fire and Forget rises to the challenge, and, as each gains in force and measure, the fog of war may clear.”

The Millions, 6/4/13
“The best fictional account of the wars of the last decade and the contemporary military experience…Fresh, raw, and vital. It is a rare thing for a book to live up to its blurb, but E.L. Doctorow got it right when he called this a ‘necessary’ collection.”

Michigan War Studies Review, 5/30/13
“Covers an array of subjects, from the intensity of combat to the difficulties of reintegration back home…Fire and Forget will give readers a better understanding of America's twenty-first-century wars and their aftermath…For teachers, Fire and Forget will be an invaluable supplement to the more conventional historical narratives, journal articles, and documentaries on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by vividly personalizing the war in a way that nonfiction cannot.”

WomanAroundTown.com, 6/9/13
“These 15 tales convey a truth that very few of us can even imagine.”

John Shelton Ivany Top 21
“These stories aren't pretty and they aren't for the faint of heart. They are realistic, haunting and shocking. And they are all unforgettable…What makes the collection so remarkable is that all of these stories are written by those who were there, or waited for them at home.”

Columbia Journalism Review (website), 6/25/13
“There are moments of truth in these stories.”

Philadelphia Tribune, 6/16/13
“Provides a new perspective…Remarkable.”

BiteTheBook.com, 7/1/13
“[A] powerful collection of short fiction.”

Foreign Policy, 10/8/13
“These are serious writers, more than half graduates of master's of fine arts programs, but unlike the traditional college student, these veterans bring a life experience to the form that is substantial and heart-breaking.”

War, Literature & the Arts, Volume 25
“As an anthology, [it] is anything but forgettable…This anthology differs from other war narratives in its ability to create piercing levels of cognitive dissonance among its characters while simultaneously heightening our own.”
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306821761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306821769
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Hall VINE VOICE on January 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Fire and Forget" is a powerful, depressing, and unsettling collection of short stories. These stories were written by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and while they are fiction, I have no doubt that most if not all are based on real experiences.

"Depressing" is an adjective I rarely use to describe fiction. In this case, it comes with the territory, because so much of what occurred over there or upon return was/is terribly depressing. These short stories manage to capture the essence of what many service members have experienced, but for the most part it's doesn't make for comfortable reading.

Some of the stories are downright sad. "Play the Game", by Colby Buzzell effectively transmits the mixed emotions one combat vet experiences, turning his brain into an organic "Wheel of Fortune" as he wanders around in a fog on the streets of Los Angeles. "New Me" by Andrew Slater manages to describe how traumatic brain injury created a slippery slope between normalcy and borderline dementia for one returning soldier, while his friends and family remain earnestly clueless.
Mariette Kalinowski's gut-punching story, "The Train", perhaps affected me the most of all. I've experienced "survivor's guilt" myself, and Ms. Kalinowski's portrayal of how that plays out really rang true. As an added bonus, if there are any Americans who still possess the mistaken belief that women haven't been serving in combat, they need to read "The Train" to assist them in pulling their heads out of their rear ends. On the flip side, "Tips for a Smooth Transition" by Siobhan Fallon really nailed the equally-difficult challenges faced by spouses during and after deployments.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fire and Forget contains some of the most gripping and powerful short stories I have ever read. Inevitably, with fifteen different authors, the quality of the stories is a bit uneven, ranging from genuinely good to simply brilliant. Still, there are none not worth reading.

There is a shopworn admonition that writers should write about what they know best. In most cases, this advice is of no more value than any other abstract cliche'. However, readers of Phil Klay's story "Redeployment" will see this tired old bromide brought to life in a technically learned but overwhelmingly sad fashion. Anyone who doubts that military training is thoroughly absorbed in a way that makes it directly applicable in a broad, varied, and unexpected set of circumstances, need only read this story, especially the last few pages. I can't recall sitting alone reading something so moving that I winced and involuntarily turned away, not until I read the matter-of-fact account of love and mercy in "Redeployment."

Mariette Kalinowski's story "The Train" was even more effective and rightly troubling. I don't read fiction as a detached observer. I try to put myself in the place of the characters, especially the protagonist, and that's the way I tried to read "The Train." Maybe it was my moody discomfort at that moment or transitory fatigue, but as I got more deeply into Malinowski's story, I found myself identifying much too closely with the protagonist. I found myself feeling as if I were actually living her life, or at least the piece of it included in "The Train." It was unnerving. I had to back off, reminding myself that this was just an unusually well-crafted fictional account, and I was just a reader.
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Format: Paperback
FIRE AND FORGET is an absolutely terrific collection of stories by fifteen exciting new writers, all products of the recent and current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fully a third of the writers have already published their own books. Siobhan Fallon's book of connected stories, You Know When the Men Are Gone, has alreay garnered much deserved critical acclaim. Her story, "Tips for a Smooth Transition" adds a valuable chapter to her earlier oeuvre of the unavoidable miscommunication, disconnect, and struggles with loneliness and infidelity that occur between absent or returning soldiers and their spouses, left behind either alone or with small children.

It's hard to pick a favorite entry here, but I loved Phil Klay's "Redeployment," maybe because of its dialogue of authentic GI language filled with all its political incorrectness which nevertheless brought guilty guffaws from me as I read it. I'd offer an example, but it's too filthy for most of my review venues. And yet the same story, with the narrator's fear of public places and the dilemma of dealing with a dying and beloved dog made me wince in empathy. Jacob Siegel's "Smile, There Are IEDs Everywhere" shows three veterans of widely divergent backgrounds reuniting in New York City for a drunken binge. The difficulties of that "smooth transition" are glaringly displayed in the course of that evening.

In "Play the Game" Colby Buzzell (author of the memoir,
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