"Gonzo meets Hezbollah in this unlikely—and delightful—work of journalism."
Today, August 11th, is the official release date of Reports from Hell by mid-length aficionado Charlie Smith, whom some of you already know.
“Books are wild things. Beautiful things. Maybe antiquated but never for me. I love Camus, love Waugh, love Murakami, Knausgaard, Wolfe, Thompson, Mailer, Didion… but I am no literary titan. I am but a surf journalist,” says Charlie. “Still, I can’t stop writing. Flipping the computer’s lid open, dropping headphones over my ears, dancing with words. I’m generally a little blue when the final draft comes back from the editor because then the journey is over.”
This review, which you can read below, comes from Kirkus, an American book review magazine founded in 1933, which isn’t always kind.
Gonzo meets Hezbollah in this unlikely—and delightful—work of journalism.
What to do when al-Qaida strikes and the twin towers fall? Grab a surfboard and make for the Middle East, of course, the strategy followed by Smith and companions Nate, “who happens to look exactly like Steve McQueen playing Frank Bullitt if Frank Bullitt wore a bleached fauxhawk,” and Josh, given to sage analyses of current events: “This is the way history works, bro. Convulsions and spasms. To imagine any different, to imagine that we are somehow removed from the long bend, is ludicrous.”
Smith opens with a howlingly funny interview he conducted with David Petraeus, who delivered “easily digestible, easy-to-understand drips of Middle Eastern insight that I imagine rack-rate conference-goers crave.”
During that encounter, Smith had been prattling on about a car that is as central a piece of equipment in this narrative as the suitcase full of pharmaceuticals in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, very much a kindred book.
So is just the right T-shirt, the right board, and the right amount of sangfroid when, in Lebanon, the loopy journalists were kidnapped by actual terrorists, just as they’d feared, occasioning another Jeff Spicoli–ish remark from Josh: “These Hezbollah bros are something we know. We can figure this out.” Underneath all the goofiness is utterly serious intent: In addition to seeking to better understand the radicals’ point of view, the author is committed to providing plenty of shades of gray in a world that “had never been more black and white or more polarized.”
(Readers will hope he covers the U.S. in the same spirit.)
Funny and sharp, Smith is also a master of the tossed-off phrase that is just right for the job: “Early-2000 Dubai felt like Blade Runner might if written and directed by trust-funded Saudi Arabian boys who loved robot porn.”
A lively and entertaining—and illuminating—journey into dangerous territory.
Buy here or, if y’round tomoz, jump on a virtual meet-and-greet with Charlie, twenty-seven bucks, book included.