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Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends Paperback – Bargain Price, October 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Veteran journalist Sager (Revenge of the Donut Boys) presents an amalgam of celebrity portraits and cautionary tales in a collection as addictive as the drugs and violence that fuel much of the author's reporting. The title story goes inside a pioneering program at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that helps wounded Marines—many suffering from traumatic brain injuries—return to society. In other pieces, Sager extends his war metaphor in portraits of the famous, the anonymous and the tragic: the misunderstood Kobe Bryant, Rev. Al Sharpton (one of the most reviled men in America) and nightclub bouncer and smartest man in America, Chris Langan. Some of the most compelling, and tragic, portraits are drawn from the darkest corners of American society: Generation H—children of the nineties—heroin addicts in New York City and teenage gang members in Venice, Calif. The author turns the spotlight on himself in Hunting Marlon Brando, a highly personal and quixotic odyssey to track down the elusive actor. Sager has made a career of finding the unexpected story and telling it with empathy and narrative skill—a talent that's on display throughout this eclectic and consistently arresting collection. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“[Sager] is the Switzerland of reporters. No matter how heartbreaking, provocative or shocking the subject matter, Mr. Neutral coolly watches and writes. And the 11 pieces here require an even hand, as they deal largely with extremes…The most powerful story in this collection tells of inner-city teens in Philadelphia who raise and fight pit bulls. I read the piece three times in amazement—and I never, ever, want to read it again.”
“A downbeat but engrossing volume…Chronicles the marginalized, forgotten and despised in cool, transparent prose that eschews judgment and melodrama…Rewarding reading.”
“Powerful stories…[Sager] compassionately, and without personal prejudices, manages to gently and psychologically dissect what he sees and senses…He gives us portraits of real human beings with flesh and blood emotional issues; and yes, with their own inner wars…Entertaining and fascinating…At the end of the book, you will find yourself changed in some way. Call it empathy, or just a compassionate response to have seen and become aware of another man’s pain and suffering; but you will remember these men that you read about long after putting this book to rest.”
“Sager profiles these people with sensitivity…His book is best when it looks at non-celebrity, non-rich fighters being forced to cope, day after day, with the realities of living with broken bodies in a world they hoped to remake but that instead remade them.”
“Sager's anthology of work treads a dark path. Standout pieces include his unnerving title article about severely wounded veterans of the Iraq war, a pair of articles tracking users of heroin and crystal meth, and a piece from 1987 about Sager's attempt to interview Marlon Brando in Tahiti.”
“The writing is crisp and clear in every one of the book’s 11 chapters…Wounded Warriors is a sampler of the best of American magazine writing over the past 25 years, even if the stories all come from a single author…Sager’s range is prodigious, but his focus never wanders…Sager doesn’t leave any question unanswered; he is giving us the whole story…Sager gets so close to his subjects that readers may feel like a rush-hour commuter rubbernecking at a wreck—maybe you should avert your eyes, but then again maybe you shouldn’t, because truth is being revealed. The throbbing of these wounds is real, and we should know, we need to know, what these men and women feel and experience so we can empathize and act. Despite the gritty details, Sager has a deft, easy, readable touch that never becomes heavy-handed. He clearly cares for these people, and in his hands, so does the reader.”
“Mike Sager never ceases to amaze. He finds access into the private lives of individuals good and bad, rich and poor, famous and nearly anonymous…Because Sager is such a charismatic observer, skilled interviewer and pyrotechnic stylist, his magazine stories are haunting, memorable…That's the strength of Sager the journalist: allowing readers to experience reality without leaving an armchair.”
ForeWord, Nov/Dec 2008
“Sager exhumes real people behind potent stereotypes…[Sager] dissects his subjects with surgical skill, serving up juicy splices of lives lived in the trenches… Sager is brilliant at getting folks to talk…Sager looks into the lives of some of society’s walking wounded and sees their humanity, their accomplishments, and their everyday battle to survive.”
“Sager writes about people we idealize, some we ignore and those we fear…His reports, especially those from way under the mainstream cultural radar, create a mosaic of American lives that we’ve looked away from…His cinematic writing whets your curiosity…His self-effacing style evokes George Orwell’s famous dictum that good writing should be as transparent as a pane of glass…Not everything he writes is flattering, but all of it is meticulously observed, accurate and respectful.”
American Author’s Association
“A book that will move you…[Sager] compassionately, and without personal prejudices, manages to gently and psychologically dissect what he sees and senses…He gives us portraits of real human beings with flesh and blood emotional issues; and yes, with their own inner wars…Entertaining and fascinating…At the end of the book, you will find yourself changed in some way…You will remember these men that you read about long after putting this book to rest.”
Multicultural Review, Winter 2009
“Sager’s writing is engaging, generating fascination in the situations of forgotten people…Sager expertly brings the reader close to an astonishingly diverse collection of people, exposing the gritty reality faced by those for whom the ideal image of success is out of reach…Sager weaves together eclectic stories from his long journalistic career that reveal the daily challenges faced by peripheral people who are getting by the best they know how…This collection is an important contribution.”
Out & About Magazine, 2/09
“[Sager] gets into his stories so deep he almost doesn’t find a way out…He goes to these places so we don’t have to. Lucky for us, he comes back with some great stories.”
Performances Magazine, 2/09
“Like a silver-tongued Margaret Mead, Sager slips into foreign societies almost unnoticed and lives among the natives, chronicling his observations in riveting long-form narratives that recall a less tragic, less self-involved Hunter S. Thompson and a more relatable Tom Wolfe. Infiltrating hard-to-penetrate subcultures is Sager’s gift…Wounded Warriors takes readers places few writers can…Throughout, Sager avoids the pitfall of inserting himself into the story where he doesn’t belong…His subtlety honors the reader’s intelligence, and his absence in each story allows the true power of his characters to emerge. In some way, each of Sager’s subjects is among the walking wounded, and the reader finds empathy for even the unlikeliest of heroes.”
Feminist Review, 2/15/09
“Sager connects with each of his characters in a unique way.”
Kentucky Advocate, 4/19/09
“Sager will bring you to tears. This beautiful book is filled with stories of heroes come home, and it will touch even the hardest of hearts.”
Leatherneck Marine Corps magazine, September issue
“Sager has written a gripping account of how these Marines are coping with their combat-altered lives. An experienced interviewer, he lets the Marines’ stories speak for themselves…Powerful stuff.”
Midwest Book Review, August 2009
“Sager has written a gripping account of how these Marines are coping with their combat- altered lives. An experienced interviewer, he lets the Marines' stories speak for themselves…Powerful stuff.”
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Top Customer Reviews
In this piece of journalistic literature, the wounded Iraq war veterans share their stories - their lives, loves, war experiences, traumatic injuries, and efforts to recover. The stories are very real, and offer insight into the minds of the marines - - why they join the military, how they feel about fighting, what they think of the war, how their experiences have affected their lives, etc. This story is fairly easy to read, and it moves along quickly. It shows the men struggling, yet also having hope for the future. By representing the men who live in this particular barracks, the story represents a community that is supportive and men who have bonded and understand the importance of friendship and teamwork.
The marines depicted in this journalistic story are gritty, lovable, realistic and fascinating. The story is gripping; on the cover of the book it is described as "addictive" and "engrossing" - I'd have to agree thoroughly with those assessments. I was very moved by the stories and the way they are presented; Sager is a terrific writer. I did recommend it for our adolescent book group, with two caveats: (1) The facilitator should well prepared, and must be sensitive the multitude of issues raised by war and military service;
(2) The group should be primarily older teens (age 16+).
The story packs a real hard punch, but is important for students to read as it presents very important issues to be dealt with in today's world. It should generate terrific discussion.
In an online review of the book by the Military Writer's Society of America, which honored it with their highest book rating and Founder's Award for 2008, they said, "He (Sager) compassionately, and without personal prejudices, manages to gently and psychologically dissect what he sees and senses. He brings his points of view into the story of these men without showing anything more than their own behaviors and words. The raw pains and the emotions are all there. It is a powerful tale of a group of marines baring their souls to the author on a military base in a special unit set aside for wounded warriors. For some people this chapter will open their eyes and their hearts to what these men are going through. If this chapter does not move you then nothing will."
While I did recommend testing this story with adolescent book groups, I also mentioned concerns to be aware of in using it with teens. First, the stories are disturbing as the men share their war experiences and their wounds are discussed. (Counterpoint: It is realistic without being overly graphic). Second, the groups and teacher should be aware that there is a lot of cursing in the men's stories.
I have read most of Sager's other stories in the book, and they are beautifully written, fascinating and very realistic in a gritty way.
Very possible the title of the book will confuse most readers. "Surely Wounded Warriors" refers to those Marines in the program at Camp Lejeune's Maxwell Hall? Sager has written a gripping account of how these Marines are coping with their combat- altered lives. An experienced interviewer, he lets the Marines' stories speak for themselves as he talks with several enlisted men as well as Lt Col Bill Maxwell founder of the Wounded Warrior program. Through the firefights and I.E.D.s remembered by those who fought in Anbar Province, Sager lets the Marines describe the firefights, mortar attacks, and IED's that wounded them, as well as how they're coping now. Powerful stuff.
But to Sager, "Wounded Warriors" includes others besides the Marines. He follows a middle-class heroin addict... Vietnam-era expatriates living in Thailand...a 13-yr old Philadelphia kid who fights pit bulls, a 650/lb fat man...Kobe Bryant...Rev Al Sharpton...Marlon Brando...Sager's definition of a `wounded warrior' is far broader than a typical Marine or Army active-service or veteran would ever consider.
There is no doubt, however, that Sager cares for his subjects. There are no value judgments made, no aspersions cast. Sager is simply telling the stories of some truly dysfunctional and pathetic members of society, and he relates their stories in a manner that make the reader sympathetic.
But any reader who has experienced combat, or has had friends or family members serve overseas, will be hard-pressed to feel any sympathy for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Rev Al Sharpton, and Marlon Brando. At least the morbidly-obese 650-lb man is happily married and runs a thriving free-lance electronics design business, so this `wounded warrior' has overcome his disability.
The definition of a `wounded warrior' is very broad to Sager as he writes of Brando making himself a recluse on his private island, Bryant signing basketballs that he sells for $ 699.00, or Rev Al wondering about the quality of the food he'll be served when he gets locked up. But in the real world, these stories pale in comparison to that of the LCPL at Maxwell Hall describing the firefight in which he's wounded and his buddy's killed.
But perhaps the new definition of `wounded warrior' is how one responds to the challenges around them...and yet one more reason why those Marines in the Lejeune and Pendleton Wounded Warrior barracks remain the elite of American society today.