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Operation Homecoming Reading Tour

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In June, The New Yorker published, in the words of the website (links added by me):

a selection of letters, journal entries, and personal essays by soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who served in the current war in Iraq. The writings are part of a project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts called Operation Homecoming. An anthology of the work, edited by the historian Andrew Carroll, will be published this fall by Random House. Here, in an Audio Slide Show produced by Matt Dellinger, five of the servicemen read from their work, accompanied by their photographs.

Here's the riveting slide show. Now, there's a nationwide tour of readings. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The stylish magazine with the literary bent even devoted its famous cover to this unparalleled explosion of wartime writings.

Last week, the local press reported that Encinitas, thanks largely to the relentless lobbying of former mayor (now councilman) Dan Dalager, would host a free “Operation Homecoming” reading on Sept. 22 at the Encinitas Community Center.

The 40-city tour's opening venues: New York, Washington and . . . Encinitas. (Fancy that.)

Taken all around, a fair amount of publicity for an anthology you can't buy in bookstores.

“Operation Homecoming,” conceived and cultivated by the National Endowment for the Arts, won't be available for sale until Sept. 12.

These hundred or so personal narratives, e-mails, poems and short stories are the distilled result of some 50 workshops conducted by authors the likes of Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down”), Tom Clancy (“Clear and Present Danger”), Victor Davis Hanson (“Why the West Has Won”), Bobbie Ann Mason (“In Country”), Tobias Wolff (“In Pharaoh's Army”) and editor Andrew Carroll (“War Letters”), who edited “Operation Homecoming.”

The Union-Tribune reprints one of the poems in the Random House collection, which, like all the entries, is hard to read without grief and anger:

Now consider this spare poem in the William Carlos Williams vein. It's by Billie Hill-Hunt, who made an audiotape of her husband sleeping the night before he left for Iraq.

I used to say

“You are cutting down an en-

tire forest with your snoring.”

Now without it

Bedtime seems boring

I recorded you

The last time you were here

Call me crazy

But I play it from time to time

Just to keep you near.

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