Tina Brown’s Must-Reads: Modern Warfare
by NPR STAFF
July 18, 2012
Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast andNewsweek, tells us what she’s been reading in a feature that Morning Edition likes to call “Word of Mouth.”
This month, Brown shares reading recommendations related to the changing nature of war, including a book on Obama’s foreign policy and an article about the ongoing destruction of Timbuktu’s ancient monuments.
A Reporter Who Wouldn’t Quit
Brown’s first pick is “Marie Colvin’s Private War,” by Marie Brenner; it’s a profile of the late war correspondent, featured in this month’s Vanity Fair.
“She was a war correspondent completely of the old school,” Brown tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “She wanted to be there on the ground, in the middle of danger, writing her dispatches. She was a crazy, danger-loving girl who really couldn’t resist, in a sense, the adrenaline of the front.”
Brenner’s profile goes deep into Colvin’s character, including her difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“That was really one of the great untold stories of the time,” Brown says. “[Colvin] just could not stop going back, even when it was quite clear that she had really enough shellshock to get out of the game.”
“Colvin certainly had a strong humanitarian instinct,” Brown adds. “She wanted to tell the stories of the people that no one wanted to write about or cared about.
“But she also had several marriages, she was constantly in love with the wrong guys, she had a drinking problem, she couldn’t have kids; all of these things, I think, made her a pretty tumultuous and unhappy woman underneath. And going off to war means that you can simply put everything in a box — sweep it away — and that’s really in a sense a way of evading reality also.”
A Historic City Coming To Ruins
Next is “Lost City,” an article by Peter Chilson inForeign Policy magazine. Chilson documents how the Islamist rebels who recently took over the city of Timbuktu, in the West African nation of Mali, have begun systematically tearing downmany of its ancient tombs, mosques and monuments, just as the Taliban did in Afghanistan. The structures, sacred to Sufi Muslims, are seen as idolatrous by the rebels.
Brown says Chilson’s piece highlights the destruction while also providing a beautiful picture of the city itself.
“At night, the desert sky was so bright and clear it seemed to rest right on the rooftops,” Chilson writes of when he first saw Timbuktu. “During the day, the city and landscape blended into the blinding pale sky, as if Timbuktu itself were floating on a cloud.”
“There’s a dreamlike quality to this landscape,” Brown says. “And [Chilson] writes also about how Timbuktu has always had a genius for being able to absorb its invaders. Century after century, since the 14th century, it has been invaded and it has had these uprisings, but it returns.”
Brown and Chilson both wonder, though, how Timbuktu will survive this time.
“[The rebels] are killing the soul of Islam,” says one of the people interviewed in Chilson’s piece. Brown adds: “They’re doing that by wiping out [Islam’s] own history — its very notion of itself.”