I never read thrillers growing up, unless you count the Hardy Boys. And no spy novels, apart from "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," by John LeCarré, which I had to read for a fourth-year class on espionage at SFU—the class I was in, incidentally, when the attacks of September 11th took place. I didn't play with G.I. Joes, and, frankly, never understood the ecstasies my Egyptian friend Kareem found in them, flinging himself, and the figurines, around the pool deck at his Toronto home, spittle flying from his mouth—Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, Snake Eyes, noooo!!!
All of which is to say I was unprepared for Jon Lee Anderson's ducking, barrel-rolling, ricocheting account of American opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan, "The Taliban's Opium War" (July 9, 2007). About midway through the article the prose turned all And then we heard an explosion over the ridge; there were shell casings and bone fragments all around. We poked our head out of the foxhole, and I had to remind myself that I wasn't reading a paperback I'd found wedged between two bus seats. And just seconds after that admittedly disparaging thought, I had another: Shit, the guy got shot at, for four hours, in Afghanistan. He's got more street cred—field cred, whatever—than Fitty. (Audio here.)
I had two more thoughts, too:
1) Invite more goateed, tatooed DynCorp employees to my next barbecue. How cool would it be to get them all hopped up on Bud and amphetamines and pair them off in human cockfights?
2) Save a little of that opium juice from the knocked-over and broke-open poppy, fieldworker Khalil! I'll swing by around eight. You can show me what to do—we'll make some tea, rub it on our gums, whatever.
Ah, I was going to write more about the insouciant little article that followed Anderson's (hence the post title), but I've run out of time for the moment. It was Ian Frazier's "On Impact," the tale of a meteorite (or perhaps something more sinister) that recently fell into the New Jersey home of Srinivasan Nageswaran. Although I know Frazier's name, I can't call to mind another of his articles. In this piece he's delightfully breezy, and he has a fine ear for slang. Tell me you don't love a guy who could write three opening sentences like these:
"People get excited when strange objects fall from the sky. We seek portents and meaning, we venerate the object, and we horripilate at the uncanny scent of our beginnings, or end. Even wised up by science as we are, we tend to freak."
("Horripilate"—I looked it up—means "to cause one's hair to stand on end and get goosebumps," as in "I horripilate at the sight of blood," or "Hitchcock movies horripilate me.")