Ayres a coward? Come on, give the guy a medal.


London Times journalist Ayres reluctantly joins the “elite, noble, and fucked-up profession” of Middle East war correspondent in this report from the frontlines.

Awoken at 6:30 in the morning, the author learns that his editor at the Times, a former foreign correspondent and a titan in the field, wants him to go to war. Ayres, too, is a foreign correspondent: he files stories on celebrity life in Los Angeles. Still, he does not want to let the boss down, nor lose his job. “Yes! Love to!” he blurts. Since he is embedded for a mere nine days, much of this memoir concerns how Ayres happened to arrive there in the first place. After all, here is a guy who started out his journalistic career as a financial writer—and a fraud at that, he admits, since he knew diddly about economics—before moving on to the celebrity circuit in LA. Not before witnessing the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and experiencing the anthrax craze that followed, however; both receive excellent, sinewy coverage here. Then this self-described clumsy geek hypochondriac with panic attacks gets the wake-up call, and he caves before his best instincts, scared that another will take his place and shine, scared of squandering the opportunity so many journalists desire. Outside Baghdad, waiting to die as Iraqi tanks bear down on his storm-stuck Humvee, Ayres berates himself for the cowardice of letting his journalist’s ego get the upper hand, for a selfishness that would cause his loved ones great and lasting pain. While these moments of bitterness claw at his soul, he delivers a first-rate glimpse of how terrifying are the wages of war, and not just the carnage and doom: the first time he needs to use the field as a toilet, he squats directly over a tarantula’s nest.

Ayres a coward? Come on, give the guy a medal.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-87113-895-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?