It is good that there is literature from Iraq that is being translated into English. It will humanize the place for those of us in the United States, allow us to discover it in a way that the news does not. A similar thing happened when the vastly overrated The Kite Runner came out. It’s not, particularly in the end, an especially good book. Its popularity, I think, reflected more of our need to understand the people and place in greater depth than what we were reading and seeing in the headlines.

Blasin’s first few stories did not work for me. They seemed like they were influenced by Quentin Tarantino – absurd violence for its own sake, even for comic effect. I was hooked by the fourth story, “An Army Newspaper.” It is here that Blasin moves into the somewhat surreal. “The Hole” is wonderful as is “The Madman of Freedom Square,” but it is “The Iraqi Christ,” even with the burden of that title, that is the absolute knock-out blow.

The U.S. is everywhere here and nowhere. War is always a character, but rarely a central one, and I think that works for Blasin.

I look forward to what comes from Blasin or from Iraq next.

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