Junger's best sellers The Perfect Storm and War are likely among the reasons that long-form journalism is enjoying a major resurgence of interest: these are books that remind readers of the sweep, insight and detail immersive reporting can provide. Sometimes at great risk: Junger's collaborator on War and the acclaimed Restrepo documentary, war photojournalist Tim Hetherington, was killed last year by mortar shells as he was covering the Libyan civil war.
Scene writer Brantley Hargrove interviewed Junger and Hetherington back in 2010 before Restrepo played in local theaters, and his piece is well worth looking up:
War, Junger says, "is not a monochromatic experience. It contains everything that life contains, just in these intensified doses." Boredom, fear, love and, indeed, grief. Two of these elemental emotions are the names of sections of War, as grandiosely titled as the book itself. If War sets out to be the definitive work on men in combat, as its title seems to insinuate, it doesn't necessarily succeed. What the book does well, though, is render the experience through Junger's sweeping, analytical eye: The way the hescos (rectangular wire cages filled with excavated dirt and stone to provide cover) don't adequately compensate for the angle of fire coming off the high ridges. Or how his apparent fascination with human physiology (think The Perfect Storm and that face-blanching anatomy of a drowning) illustrates combat's effect on and transformation of the human body in an untold way. Or how and why a well-trained squad can withstand an L-shaped ambush that might decimate a lesser group of soldiers.
This is battle — not from CENTCOM omniscience, but from a Valley-wide and shoulder-to-the hesco point of view. The length of Hetherington and Junger's embed with the men of Battle Company — each spent five roughly one-month stretches in the Korengal — allowed a kind of intimacy seldom seen in the roving TV and newspaper reporter's coverage of the war. They shared their hardship (Hetherington broke his fibula during Operation Rock Avalanche, which claimed the life of a very well-liked and capable soldier) and earned their trust. They tapped into the kind of relationship particular to men in combat. Not friendship, per se. More like brotherhood: that sense of being absolutely essential, of depending on those around you as intensely as they depend on you, of utter utility. Some of them hate each other, Junger wrote, but they wouldn't hesitate to step in front of a bullet for any man in the platoon. And from these interdependent bonds, they've illuminated a truth most of us at home don't understand: In a way, these are some of the best and the worst days of their lives.
Below, the full text of the MTSU release.
Best-selling author, journalist and documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger, whose first book, “The Perfect Storm,” became a major motion picture, will speak at MTSU on Tuesday, March 20.
Junger’s free public lecture, “Dispatches from War: Stories from the Front Lines of History,” is scheduled for 2:40 p.m. in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre. His daylong visit also includes speaking with classes in the College of Mass Communication and a series of interviews with campus media.
“His visit is the kickoff to a yearlong project I’m organizing to use students to interview and document, via print and multimedia, the experiences of MTSU’s many veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now that the wars are almost over, this is the time to record their stories,” said Leon Alligood, a professor in the School of Journalism who was himself embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq during his work as a reporter at The Tennessean.
“I’m hoping this time next year we’ll have a multimedia exhibition, and maybe a print product, to catalog these stories,” added Alligood, who teaches “Immersion Journalism” classes in addition to reporting, feature-writing and interactive-media courses at MTSU.
As a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and as a contributor to ABC News, Junger has covered major international news stories in Liberia, Sierra Leone and around the globe. He has received the National Magazine Award and an SAIS NovartisPrize for Journalism.
Junger became a fixture in the national media when, as a first-time author, he commanded The New York Times best-seller list for more than three years with The Perfect Storm, which later set sales records and became a major motion picture from Warner Bros.
Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington were embedded for more than a year with a platoon from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the remote and heavily contested Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan.
Reporting on the war from the soldiers’ perspective, Junger spent weeks at a time at an outpost that saw more combat than almost anywhere else in the entire country. The result was a book, “WAR,” and a 96-minute documentary, “Restrepo,” that won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Off-campus visitors attending Junger’s March 20 lecture should be aware that nearby construction and classes will limit parking opportunities. Visitors can park in the University’s South Rutherford Boulevard lot and ride the Raider Xpress shuttle into the campus core to reach the Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium, which houses Tucker Theatre. A printable campus map is available at www.mtsu.edu/parking/Map_2011-2012.pdf.
Junger's visit is sponsored by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, the MTSU Distinguished Lectures Committee, the University Centennial Committee, Ideas and Issues Committee, the MTSU School of Journalism, the University Honors College and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.
For more information about the journalist’s visit, contact Alligood at firstname.lastname@example.org.