It’s not easy being a blogger. It means one is supposed to post a photo, a comment or two, a story, a pithy observation, more photos…be present. Sometimes work or family or friends or the gym or cleaning or shopping or sleep keeps one otherwise occupied. And sometimes…it is a completely irresistible book.
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer in this case. What’s so special you may ask? For me it is the history of a time, starting in early days Vietnam and ending with the protagonist’s death a few short years ago. It is Packer’s writing, smart and easy, a story well told about just who we (Americans) are and are not. It is Richard Holbrooke, the brilliant guy, the good guy, the outsize character with outsize flaws; not sure why but I’ve always been interested in him, only as the dashing diplomat, without a whole lot of additional knowledge. It’s all of that.
The first quarter or so of the story concerns Vietnam so it’s not that I’m learning so much new about the big picture (thanks to Ken Burns, Andrew X. Pham, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Tim O’Brien; oh yeah, and living through that time with Dylan as soundtrack) but it is filled with details, vaguely or not at all familiar, that enrage me all over again. Somebody said another of Packer’s books was almost novelistic in the telling and it’s true of Our Man as well; rich in detail and insight and little asides straight from the writer to me, the reader. Packer has written a number of books; I even own another…sadly unread…but now next on the agenda. He’s somebody new to collect from the past and anticipate for the future.
I’m excited to move on in a few minutes into the other adventures and misadventures of American diplomacy in Holbrooke’s lifetime of which I know so much less, especially the Balkans and Afghanistan (I am ashamed to say).
An evening and a whole day lie ahead with only writing and reading projects on the want-to-do list. Living room scrubbed and dusted today, all else put off until next week. There really is nothing as fine as a good book. Yay books, yay weekends, yay life.