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I just finished Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by John Krakauer. If I haven't song praise for Mr. Krakauer enough before, I will certainly this time. This book was just amazing. Krakauer has an uncanny ability to get into the minds of his subjects and Pat Tillman, who is as complex and compelling as any of his previous works is no exception. First, I think this book lays out an amazing and comprehensive history of conflict with foreign nations in Afghanistan, starting with the former Soviet Union, that is both advanced and accessible. It's my opinion that with regard to this conflict, both sides of the aisle have their catch phrases and zingers and now the origins of these half truths behind each are more readily identifiable (not as truth per se, but instead the reason why a specific point or counterpoint may be given). Second it makes important distinctions between waring factions, tribes, and terrorist organizations readily apparent. These different groups were distinguished in ways that I didn't recognize previously. The book's subject, Pat Tillman is a plethora of emotions and ideas. He is so inspiring, courageous, impressive, fool hardy, sensitive...I could go on. The pages had me wanting to serve my country and times and in tears at other. There is so much narrative included from his journals (and from the citations even more from his wife, Marie) that you really get a portrait of this incredible man, who was so much more than anything you might have heard; jock, academic, soldier, advocate, lover. However, I think Krakauer loses some steam by trying to link Mr. Tillman too closely to the lessons learned in Homer's "Odyssey". In fact, nothing in the book itself lends me to believe that Pat Tillman gave up the life he knew for the difficult life of the armed services for glory - it was for his undeniable sense of morality. While the author makes it clear that this wasn't an expedition to win glory (although a masculine pride component looms), much of the work he did to separate these issues is forced back into the reader's mind in the last pages of the book. Tillman is compared to Achilles, in the sense of his physical prowress, but a more apt comparison is likely Odysseus or Hector. Another spectacular issue of this book is Mr. Krakauer's take on timing and wartime propaganda. In America, students are educated about propaganda as a thing of the past but it is alive and well. In fact, I bet more people recognize it easily. Perhaps I'm naive but I didn't expect it to be such a purposeful tool used by modern governments. It was really fascinating. With regard to timing, I just want to mention that like his other works I've read, Krakauer does an amazing job switching topics. In this book, he will often rely on telling you where Pat Tillman was during a certain portion of time. It's incredibly effective to both humanize Pat Tillman and put historical pieces of this narrative into context. Great book. I'm considering picking up Mrs. Dannie Tillman's book, Boots To the Ground which was a source of much of this books information although it seems Mrs. Tillman may have declined to participate in the production of Where Men Win Glory.
Huh, thanks for the recommendation. I love Krakauer's work and the story of Pat Tillman always marginally interests me whenever I remember it. From your description, it sounds like Krakauer has a fascination with noble, idealistic adventurers who fail to see the danger or the foolishness in the voyages upon which they're embarking (I'm thinking Chris McCandless here). I think I'll check this one out.
I agree with that assessment. There are similarities between Chris McCandless and Pat Tillman, but they are also really different. Tillman lacks the hubris Krakauer attributed to McCandless, IMHO. I think you will find it interesting and a good read. He donates an entire portion of the book to Jessica Lynch as well, who I recalled as a big news piece a few years ago.
I graduated high school with a Jessica Lynch and remember being so confused when that story broke my freshman year of college. "What's that Jessica Lynch done got herself into now?" I remember thinking as I traversed the campus.