An innocent abroad: New York Times reporter Feuer’s engaging memoir of a brief sojourn in Iraq.
Feuer dons the Gray Lady’s “This Reporter” persona to become the narrator known as “T.R.,” and though the result of referring to himself in the third person is at first a little strange, he never makes the mistake of taking himself too seriously. Quite the reverse, for the most part: our Candide first turns up in these pages as a cub reporter who, though lazy and unambitious, at least is honest. Thanks to the vetting of a brilliant editor, T.R./Feuer reluctantly finds himself on a short list of reporters to be allowed into Iraq, a cause for celebration for the career-minded; says one colleague, “You’re on the fucking list? Dude, that’s great! Beers in Baghdad!” Given that his last story had been a profile of a Bronx resident who had emerged as the largest packager of tours to Italy, Feuer finds himself mystified by the assignment, but he nonetheless stocks up on the requisite safari gear and reporter tech kit in the evident hope of at least looking something like a war correspondent. He finds no shortage of things to write about, and as he gradually sheds his naive affect, he turns in some memorable portraits: there are the boozy death-and-glory hounds in the press corps; a Jordanian woman who diligently makes time in a world of graft to catch up with Sex and the City DVDs; Iraqi civilians whose lives have been overturned by the invasion; and, especially, American combat troops whose own innocence seems at odds with a certain trigger-happiness. His self-portrait is memorable, too, as Feuer recounts how his “eyes were opened to the methods used to make the news. He hated thinking any thought that might inspire cynicism, and would hardly wish to bitch . . . still he was surprised.”
Of the war itself we catch only smoky, sand-blown glimpses. But Feuer’s first book helps us understand how the image of war is crafted, and for that alone it is welcome.