An American soldier’s account of fighting in Iraq’s Sunni triangle has won the “Blooker prize” for best book that began as a blog on the Internet.
Colby Buzzell, whose Internet diary from Iraq became the book “My War,” says he started posting his experiences online from a frontline Internet tent as a way to “kill time.” The book won the second annual $10,000 prize.
His blog allowed him to explain the war to readers back home with an immediacy that he would never have been able to match if he wrote a book after he returned, Buzzell told Reuters by phone from Los Angeles.
“I would come back after missions, my ears still ringing from the firefight, and sit down and write about it,” he said.
“If you look at prior history and books about war, it’s always in retrospect. I’ve been back two years. If someone told me to write a book about Iraq now, I wouldn’t know where to start.”
While he was still in Iraq, the military, citing security, ordered Buzzell to stop posting his notes on the Web. But he had collected enough material to form the basis for a book.
“A soldier writing on a blog for the whole world to read made them extremely nervous. This was the first war where the Internet was such a part of it, and they were nervous about that,” he said of his commanders who ordered him off line.
But he said other soldiers have continued to post their accounts of Iraq on the web.
“The more blogs and the more books and the more writing that comes out of the war, the more understanding there will be. People here are oblivious to what our soldiers are going through every day.”
One of his inspirations was Kurt Vonnegut, the author who survived the fire-bombing of Dresden during World War Two.
Vonnegut, who died last month, praises Buzzell’s book on its cover, and sent him a postcard “from one veteran and writer to another: happy holidays” which Buzzell keeps on a wall.
“I read ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ when I was over there in Iraq,” Buzzell said of Vonnegut’s classic wartime satire. “The guy’s a genius. The way he deals with situations of dark humor and wit. He was a huge inspiration.”
But Buzzell says the best praise he gets comes from soldiers still serving in the field.
“The only opinion I care about are e-mails from the guys,” he said. “That’s the highest praise possible (when) writing a war memoir: by someone who’s been there.”
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