Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Review of An Evil Cradling

Brian Keenan's An Evil Cradling was written by a shit who it was hard to really feel bad for. A man goes from Ireland (where because he lived through things like the massacres of Bloody Sunday (where about 13 people were killed) he thought going through Lebanon (where about 400,000 were killed in the civil war) would be a walk in the park. He has the usual Irish ignorance and ability to over-romanticize the Arab world, and goes to teach English at the American University of Beirut. Against advice he lives off-campus, and gets his ass kidnapped, which he must have known was going to happen. If he didn't, he was too dumb to be teaching in a university anyway.

Even with the benefit of hindsight and the ability to actually read a book on the war, the man has the poorest understanding of the war in Lebanon that I have ever seen in print. He essentially took on the crazed revisionist history of his captors, and saves his harshest invective for Israel, who he takes to be pretty responsible for all the bad things in Lebanon.

(I have not seen anything else about him, but I'd bet anything that even after his ordeal, his politics still matches his countryman - Robert Fisk, and he frequently says stupid things in public.)

That being said, he is not someone I felt too bad for. However, the above two paragraphs were gleaned from isolated sentences and snippets in the book. The bulk of the book was about Keenan's actual ordeal as a captive of one of the Islamic Jihad groups during the Lebanon civil war for about 4 and a half years.

The prose is good and the descriptions are pretty horrifying. It was not a pretty ordeal, and having thought about this once or twice myself, it is not a position I relish finding myself in. He describes in very vivid detail the conditions, treatment, and life of a prisoner of that time and place. He describes himself, and his captors - how they acted, and treated him. There is some psychobabble about his captors here and there, and in a number of flashes of Stockholm Syndrome, he understands them, pities them, and actually identifies with their cause. (Sorry for my own psychobabble there.)

Most importantly, the book is really about friendship. For most of the 4.5 years Keenen was with John McCarthy, also a do-gooder English bloke who was taken captive, ironically after doing a documentary about Keenan. Living together for all that time with no other contact apart from their captors, one learns a lot about what it is to be a good friend. Keenan and McCarthy apparently became tight, and the friendship is well described. Keenan's discussion of his interaction is the soul of the book and also its saving grace.

Despite my introduction, I would recommend people look to this book to get some insight in to male friendships. It is worth understanding better, and there is nothing like a friendship formed in a pressure cooker to test what kind of people we are.

10 comments:

bec said...

male friendships?
i thought all you guys did was wrestle and slap each other around.

Shosh said...

as someone who knows nothing about the war in lebanon and the politics involved, I found that the book was almost completely about male friendhips. So I thought it was about something beautiful taking place under horrifying conditions. Ignorance is bliss ;)
yes, prior to this book, I thought that all that guys did was burp, fart, wrestle and slap each other around. :D
oh, karl, did you use the word "soul"?? holy crap, I had to read that twice. I think the music in central park awhile back made you soft.

Karl said...

I did use the word "soul", but only in reference to a book - where it is obviously a metaphor.

Shosh said...

metaphor, schmetaphor
I think you're geting into the neshama thing.

old carriage sports lounge said...

Well, I'm just posting for the sake of posting. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read the book, but I do know that guys are more capable of showing comraderie-ship in ways far beyond burping and..., if you'll pardon the expression, farting.

Karl said...

Of course, thanks to Shosh for the book. (I forgot to stick that in the original post.)

Shosh said...

hey, anytime. sorry I was oblivious to the politics. and you know what's funny-I didn't get that he was anti-Israel at all, which is something that I think I would notice immediately. So I guess when I get swept up in themes of love and friendship, I'm blind to everything else. scary.

old carriage sports lounge said...

shosh...no need to feel alone on this one. so am i. totally blind to the outside world. like a big dork.

bec said...

erica is right. she is. ;-)

old carriage sports lounge said...

aw bec...i turn to you when i'm at my most vulnerable...you are so cold!