I mentioned to Mike Argento, who's writing a great narrative following a West York Marine as he rebuilds his post-war life, that I was reading Sebastian Junger's book "War" and how great I thought it was.
He asked if I'd read "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright. I hadn't. I had said I liked the way Junger connected the experiences of the soldiers he was following to broader themes -- men at war, fear, courage, and so on. Mike, who had just started to read "War," said that was fine and he liked Junger's book too, but he liked that Wright's book was all story -- it kept you in the moment.
Of course, both ways are effective. Several times, Junger uses his subjects' experiences to work up to cliffhangers, from which he departs to write about the larger issue. You're fascinated by his exploration of the issue and you keep reading to find out what happened after the cliffhanger.
Wright's way, as Mike noted, just delivers the story, keeps the writer out of the way and lets you bring your own interpretations. I'm sure I'll find that out soon, as "Generation Kill" was waiting for me at my desk this morning, a loaner courtesy of Mike.
Do you have a preference for how to tell a narrative similar to these, or how you prefer to read one?
Bonus for this post: Trailer from the documentary "Restrepo," which Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington produced after their tour with the same soldiers they covered in "War":