The Unforgiving Minute


UnforgivingMinute_L.jpg I'm not really one for book reviews. These days, with Amazon codifying this sort of unwieldy, cookie-cutter "how-to" form for dead tree appraisal, the whole process is just too much of a pain in the ass for me churn out quality copy.With that said, I know what I like. I know how to express what I like. And -at the risk of sounding like a simpleton- I really liked Craig Mullaney's The Unforgiving Minute.This is an extraordinarily scribed journey, the odyssey of an 18 year old as he navigates the perils of West Point, US Army Ranger School, Oxford, and eventually war torn Afghanistan -- and yes, as the book's title implies, the crusade does usher him into manhood. Beautifully written and deeply moving, TUM transcends basic autobiographical storytelling and becomes something more. As Mullaney finds his voice, most evident in his interactions with fellow West Point cadets and his soldiers, the story undergoes a profound metamorphosis, with Mullaney defying the traditional soldiering stereotypes and resurrecting a species long believed extinct: that of the warrior-poet (evident enough in the title, which invokes Kipling's legendary poem "If").Like the great British war poets of the First World War, Mullaney doesn't glorify war or try to hide its ugly head. Instead, his writing ebbs and flows on a tide of brutal honesty and fierce self-determinism. He struggles with the awesome responsibility of leading men, slays his inner-demons (some of which, he admits, are of his own construction), and denies any inclination or temptation of self-glorification.The Unforgiving Minute is the first real war autobiography of our time. In fact, as this long war begins to approach the decade mark, Mullaney may well have offered up the most important, thought provoking, and definitive book of the so-called 9/11 generation. By holding up the mirror and transcribing what Mullaney -the soldier- sees, so the audience also reflects on what a long, strange war its been.You can listen to's podcast with Craig here.--John Noonan

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