THE CLANDESTINE DIARY OF AN ORDINARY IRAQI by Salam Pax (McArthur & Co.), 206 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The world's most famous blog (www.dear_raed.blogspot.com) consists of entries written from a bedroom in a two-storey house in downtown Baghdad, spanning the anxious days of late 2002 through June 2003.
About a year ago, the veil of anonymity that bloggers often hide behind was lifted and Salam Pax (not his real last name) found "legitimate" work writing a biweekly column for the Guardian.
Pax's diaries are invaluable for understanding the war outside the context of embedded journalism, and are a genuine pleasure to read for their insightful and no-bullshit commentary on all the protagonists, including the Baath party and the American military.
The writing is concise, fresh and very funny. He brings us the everyday effects of war, how people are coping in the markets and nightclubs.
Pax is at his best when he describes his own life amidst the dropping bombs, how the war became the soundtrack of his life, waking up to the sound of bombardment, brushing his teeth to the rhythm of the anti-aircraft rat-tat-tats.
In book form, though, the entries don't work quite as well as they do online. One of the most pleasurable things about blogs is that they demand to be read in a non-linear way, much like the Internet itself. Bloggers post links and pictures that easily divert readers to original sources or other blogs.
Hyperlinks included in these pages as footnotes have lost their dynamic purpose and are relegated to marginality instead of making the entries unique and relevant.
This blog, although technically still active, has been on hiatus since April 2004, presumably because of his new writing gig for the Guardian and the promotion of this book.
Here's hoping Pax keeps writing, but online, where his work originated and is best situated.
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