When the Hurlyburly’s Done: Roy Scranton’s “War Porn”

By Sarah Hoenicke, for the Los Angeles Review of Books

War-Porn

WAR PORN, Roy Scranton’s fiction debut, is not a comfortable book. Scranton’s experimental and interesting prose is meant to disturb the entrenched thought patterns of his readers. He defies the American cultural tenet that our military is lawful, moral, and organized, depicting it instead as it more probably is: needlessly brutal, a blunt instrument rather than a refined machine. War Porn is a complex novel about complex systems. It calls into question mindsets rampant on both sides of the Iraq War — what the sides believe about each other, what holds up, and what’s obviously unnuanced bigotry.the Los Angeles Review of Books

An English teacher of mine once called Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 a “hyperlink novel.” She meant that the book is trying to scatter its readers’ attention by being filled with things to look up — like a web page filled with clickable links that lead away from the main article. She said we should avoid looking everything up, and thus avoid becoming scattered. Readers of War Porn would be wise to follow this advice. The novel bombards with military jargon — mostly capitalized abbreviations like GWOT, IED, HAL, MRE — yet it remains entirely possible to understand the drift of the text without searching for the abbreviations’ meanings. Indeed, to do so would be to miss the point of this particular technique. When left obscure, the jargon causes the reader to be engulfed by a vague confusion, like the feeling of doing something for the first time, or of visiting a country in which one is not familiar with the language. We are meant to be overwhelmed. We experience three distinct narrators throughout, three different prose styles, and unannounced time changes, the text oscillating frequently between present and past. And yet Scranton succeeds in furthering his narrative while still maintaining his reader’s attention and interest. War Porn isn’t easy to comprehend, but it isn’t easy to put down either.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Review of Books.