Fire and Forget

‘The pity of war…’

Review by Grady Harp

There can never be enough novels or short stories based on men’s and women’s experiences with war. Combat veterans, no matter the era or war about which they write, have wisdom at times fractured by the incoming destructive elements of warfare, but wisdom that must be shared if there will ever be a time when war isn’t an option. Not that there is any sort of hope that that state of human understanding will ever supersede the need for territorial/tribal/nationalism/mistrust/religious differences that drives us to the battlefield. But if there is any voice that demands to be heard it is that of those who faced what we created as the `enemy’ and to quote Pogo, `the enemy is us.’

FIRE AND FORGET is a collection of fifteen stories by an assortment of people who have been exposed to war, particularly the dry, sand blasted conflagrations in the Middle East. The stories were collected and edited by Roy Scranton and Matt Gallagher who also contribute stories here. In a penetrating Foreword `Eclipsing War’ written by Colum McCann the mood for what is to follow is set, not only for the collection but for the history of the disgrace of war: `All stories are war stories somehow. Every one of us has stepped from one war or another. Our grandfathers were there when the stench of Dresden hung over the world, and our fathers were there when Vietnam sent its children running napalmed down the dirt road. Our grandmothers were there when Belfast fell into rubble, and our mothers were there when Cambodia became a crucible of bones. Our sisters in South Africa, our brothers in Gaza. And, God forbid, our sons and daughters will have stories to tell too. We are scripted by war. It is the job of literature to confront the terrible truths of what war has done and continues to do to us. It is also the job of literature to make sense of what ever small beauty we can rescue form the maelstrom.’

What follows are fifteen penetrating stories from the hands of the damaged who have scribed the tensions, and anguish, the scars, the decimation of personal lives of those who returned home either physically maimed or mentally brutalized or both. But these stories are so well edited that there is a variety of types of tales – some humorous, some that show that intense camaraderie that often peaks in a war zone, some about those left behind when the soldiers were fragged to distant lands – the degree of pain at seeing the morcellated psyches of those soldiers when they return home to a country they no longer recognize. Some tattoo on the mind – like the intensely sensitive `Redeployment ` by Phil Klay that opens with the words, `We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it “Operation Scooby”. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.’

But get past the initial impact of in coming and here are the works of 15 fine writers. We likely will hear more from them.

Grady Harp, February 2013

TITLE: FIRE AND FORGET: Short Stories from the Long War
AUTHOR: EDITED BY ROY SCRANTON AND MATT GALLAGHER
PUBLISHER: DA CAPO PRESS
ISBN: 9780306821769

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