When Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone writer, passed away in June, I knew I had to read something of his. 33 years old, in a fiery crash on the freeway. I could’ve read his award winning Rolling Stone profile of a NATO general from 2010, or even his recent pieces on surveillance and police states. If you really want to delve into the bowels of the internet, you can read enough conspiracy theories that take aim at his single car crash. I mean, it’s a dangerous game. Podcast after podcast, article after article, even a few television shows take aim at it. The more you listen, the more you think about it, and the more it gets really scary
I had to resist doing that, mostly because I immediately surmised that I would never really know that answer, nor would spending time playing with that theory produce anything. Not that I’m not curious, but I also know that if I spend every waking hour questioning if the government can control my car (the most prevalent theory) I’ll lose my shit.
He’s written quite a few articles and a few books, but I’m a dumb sucker for an interesting love story. So I had to read the story titled about someone losing a loved one in Baghdad. You jump into the story fairly quickly; a white female contractor and her local team get ambushed in a bad area, and most of the team is killed. Along with the female. There’s no moment of being shaken, or any moment of sympathy, because you just don’t know this person. To a degree, it feels like the prelude to a bad Richard Gere thriller film.
Then Hastings opens up. Yes, this woman who was killed was his fiance. Yes, he was in love with her, and she with him. They were not two star-crossed lovers, they didn’t happen to meet in the middle of the war, and they most certainly weren’t stupid or actively putting themselves in dangerous situations.
Hastings actually makes the routine the best part of his book; being inside a tank so hot he threw up, migrating in and out of the green zone daily, and writing down what alley had held what ambush or crime the week before. It’s sort of like he’s stumbling through a crime scene, but in the most interesting way.
And then, the part I knew all too well; the part where you meet a cute girl at a party, who is apprehensive at first, who you start to court, and you eventually fall in love with. Never tried to sell them as the perfect couple, never tried to make it seem like they were living a magical life. She comes off as jealous and almost a little bratty in some sections, and he comes off as an idiot and totally out of touch with what she wants. And then the little voice in the back of my head goes “Dude, you’ve had almost exactly this fight before.” Oh. Yeah, well. Ok, fine, I’m still in it.
I’ve never recommended a book on here before, and to a degree I still haven’t. At least, not a book for everyone. If you get bored by foreign reporting or can’t keep CNN on for five minutes without gagging, skip it. Even if you love love, skip it. You won’t care about these people.
But if you’re a bit of a news junkie (not overly, just interested enough), an intelligent romantic, or just someone who is fascinated with the combination of a foreign war and an all too native romance, then I can’t urge you enough to read it. Though, I’d recommend not thinking too hard. The fact that the two main characters who make up this book, this book that was written less than ten years ago, are both dead, can be a little tough to think about, more often than not