Things have been a little topsy-turvy in my head since I got the email from my editor at Grove/Atlantic a few days ago giving me a sneak peek at Publishers Weekly's pending starred-and-boxed review of Fobbit. I'm not a man who cries easily, but I'll admit that when I finished reading those 264 words of praise I had to reach for a Kleenex. I was living every debut novelist's dream, sitting bull's-eye in the moment for which I'd been waiting nearly 30 years.
Since the review was embargoed until late last night, I had to sit on the news....but now I'm free to share what will appear in the July 2 print issue.
I am humbled and eternally grateful to PW for this vote of confidence for my first novel:
Abrams’s debut is a harrowing satire of the Iraq War and an instant classic. The Fobbits of the title are U.S. Army support personnel, stationed at Baghdad’s enclave of desk jobs: Forward Operating Base Triumph. Some of the soldiers, like Lt. Col. Vic Duret, are good officers pushed to the brink. Others, like Capt. Abe Shrinkle, are indecisive blowhards. But the soul of the book is Staff Sgt. Chance Gooding Jr., a public relations NCO who spends his days crafting excruciating press releases and fending off a growing sense of moral bankruptcy. A series of bombings, street battles, and media debacles test all of these men and, although there are exciting combat scenes, the book’s most riveting moments are about crafting spin, putting the “Iraqi Face” on the conflict. A sequence in which a press release is drafted and edited and scrutinized, held up for so long that its eventual release is old news, is a pointed vision of losing a public relations war. Abrams, a 20-year Army veteran who served with a public affairs team in Iraq, brings great authority and verisimilitude to his depictions of these attempts to shape the perceptions of the conflict. Abrams’s prose is spot-on and often deadpan funny, as when referring to the “warm pennies” smell of a soldier’s “undermusk of blood,” or when describing one misshapen officer: “skull too big for the stalk of his neck, arms foreshortened like a dinosaur... one word came to mind: thalidomide.” This novel nails the comedy and the pathos, the boredom and the dread, crafting the Iraq War’s answer to Catch-22.
Earlier in the week, PW gave another nod to Fobbit in an article by Mike Harvkey, called "Gone Hollywood," in which he picked the book for a Top 10 list of literary fiction* coming out this Fall: "I'm going with FOBBIT by David Abrams, because he has looked at the horror [of the Iraq War] and had the same reaction that Stanley Kubrick had when trying to find the art in thermonuclear war." That made me about as happy as Slim Pickens riding bareback on a bomb.
*The list also included The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu, A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins, One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper, The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk, Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, and The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle.