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Senator’s Son


Senator’s Son: An Iraq War Novel  by Luke S. Larson

Just received a review copy of new author Luke Larson’s novel Senator’s Son. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of works of fiction that I have reviewed at ZP, but two things caught my attention about Senator’s Son:

First, the novel is historical realism with a theme of COIN. Secondly, the author Luke Larson is a decorated Marine officer with two tours in Iraq under his belt. Flipping the pages reveals a gritty, sometimes humorous, staccato writing style and military/strategy/policy issues that are discussed here, or at SWJ or Abu Muqawama come to life through the eyes of still learning practitioners. I’m looking forward to reading Senator’s Son and reviewing it in full in late February or early March ( need to finish Carr’s Inside Cyber Warfare first).

Setting aside the book itself, something else occurred to me – that we have reached the point where the war is now appearing not as news, but as literature; Iraq and Afghanistan are proving to be culturally transformative wars for America in ways that the Gulf War or the Korean War were not.

If you consider WWI, the Great War represented an existential crisis for Western Civilization that found expression in the Lost Generation and, in Germany, the polar opposite novels All Quiet on the Western Front and Storm of Steel as well as Hemingway’s A Farewell to ArmsThe Spanish Civil War electrified international opinion, foreshadowing as it did the ideological death-match of the 20th century, and yielded Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. WWII and the Vietnam War have generated an ocean of histories down to the minutest detail, as well as their share of novels, short stories and movies. It is noteworthy, that most of the time, literature and history followed the conclusion of peace, be it in victory or defeat.

In our time, the books on the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan or against terrorism are arriving while the conflict is still in full throttle, in time to shape the perceptions of policymakers and the public to an unprecedented extent. Something is happening out there, an inchoate need for answers or reassurance that writers are attempting to answer. Most of these books so far have been non-fiction, journalistic instant histories salted with examples of policy analysis and war memoirs.

Senator’s Son marks a new turn toward a wave of fiction addressing the crucible of America’s current wars. Literature can shape a nation’s psyche more profoundly than even the most soberly researched work of history.

11 Responses to “Senator’s Son”

  1. deichmans Says:

    I just got my copy from Luke today.  Started it on my flight to DC, and was quickly engrossed — looking forward to reviewing this on Antilibrarium and Oz.

  2. ShrinkWrapped Says:

    Book Previews…

    I have just started A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad by Robert S. Wistrich. It is close to 1000 pages and heavy going. The subject matter is painful and important, the book is unflinching and in……

  3. onparkstreet Says:

    Funny, the discussion of Iraq War related art came up at Abu Muqawama the other day
    One of the other commenters said there was very little fiction, or novels, so far generated, but I imagine it is simply a matter of time (as others point out). I am particularly interested in the area of art generated from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and there have been several good posts at Kings of War, and at On Violence about the topic. Novels, paintings, films, etc. This seems the time to collate them all!
    – Madhu

  4. onparkstreet Says:

    Have you all noticed the way in which military language seeps, ever so slowly and steadily, into popular culture? Just off the top of my head: boxy "military" jackets in style for women about 2005 or so, John Mayer’s (sorry about this) new album called Battle something or other, Sade has a new single, "Soldier of Love." Okay, not a new phenomenon and with so much pop culture being generated you can find whatever you want and claim a trend.
    Still. Interesting.
    – Madhu

  5. onparkstreet Says:

    Thomas Rid asking for great novels on small wars….as usual, any blog asking for book suggestions is inundated in the comments. And so, blog readers are readers first and foremost!
    – Madhu

  6. nigel Says:

    I think your a tad premature to assign wwi/ii importants to our present colonial scraps- After all our world wars were just that world wars. Even thinking contemporily, I think the Yugoslav wars, for instance, getter a bigger star for cultural importance- I’ll read a book about them!!!
    The reference to the Spanish Civil has to be Western Centrism out of control- it happened concurrently with the conflict in China- which for me had more blood more meaning and yielded "the Conquerors" and "Man’s Fate"!

  7. zen Says:

    Hi Gents,
    Shane – if you are keen for a triple-cross post, we could have you put your review up here as well. Lex and I are going to do something similar with Complicit.
    –  That is a mighty tome! But the size is understandable given the scope. I need to check that out. Adrian Goldsworthy deals with late antquity anti-semitism in his book on the Fall of Rome but I’m sure not to the same degree of detail.
    Madhu – I think there usually is an "artistic lag" behind wars. Re: seepage, don’t forget such political terms as "campaign" and "chief of staff".
    nigel –  I may be premature here, true enough. That said, my barometer is not Westero-centrism or bodycounts but cultural impact. WWI produced better literature than did WWII and, IMHO, created greater psychological-cultural changes, despite WWII being far larger in magnitude and producing larger economic and political consequences. Spain’s Civil War was tiny compared to China, no argument, but what literature did the latter produce that acheived the recognition of Homage to Catalonia? The ideological conflicts were much sharper in Spain and were a better model of WWII than China’s more heterogeneous Civil War (which is fascinating in its own right for the very different military-political dynamic that prevailed from 1911-1949 )

  8. T. Greer Says:

    Zen- but is this simply because we are reading our books in English? The Spanish Civil War drew in reporters like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell in a way China could not, it being half a world away while more exciting and less confusing wars (read: WWI, WWII, ect) were happening close to home. So no, the Western psyche was not altered too much by the Chinese civil war. But on the other hand, how much did the civil war change the Chinese psyche?  I am afraid that I am not familiar enough with modern Chinese literature to answer this question, but from all accounts I have seen and read it seems to be the formative expeirence of the People’s Republic and those who dwell inside her (e.g. the glorification of Mao’s "long march", ect.).


    Actually, this prompts another question (a bit off topic from the post) that I will open to any reader here more knowledgeable than myself: Of the 20 or so major conflicts China has played a part in over the last 200 years, which has brought about the most dramatic changes in Chinese culture?

    (If the same question was extended to America, I’d probably say the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the First World War. Perhaps also Vietnam, but I will wager that its importance in American culture will recede the farther we move away from it.)

  9. nigel Says:

    zen-thanks for the response-   I agree scale is not everything as far as a conflicts cultural affect goes, but it is a significant portion of it. The vast scale of the two world wars is a big part of their continued reverberations.
    Which brings us to Spain v. China. Both saw key WWII players flex their muscles- and it could be argued both were a part of World War Two. Spain grabbed the attention at the time,  I would argue though, that China, had a greater impact, and ultimately means more (in historical or cultural terms).  Like I said, I think Malraux’s China books easily stand up to anyone else’s Spain- (even though Victor Serge’s are brillant)

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