Reads: The Aardvark is Ready for War

Set in the first Gulf War, our protagonist is Iraq-bound on an aircraft carrier, slowly losing touch with reality and finding numerous ways to get out of combat as the front approaches. That’s mostly the book as the plot goes, more or less a pale imitation of Catch 22.

The angle here however, is that author James W. Blinn however, is obviously enamoured with Baudrillard’s infamous statement, “Le gulf war n’existe pas.” As Daddy Bush’s watch went, the Gulf War was relatively bloodless for the Americans, who pretty much conducted most of the war by remote and beamed everything back home live via CNN. The hypermediation of political conflict rendered the Gulf War indistinguishable from media for entertainment or some sort or other intellectual hyperbole. This one idea is pretty much beaten and flogged throughout the book to ridiculous proportions.

The Aardvark is Ready for War is really just a thinly disguised postmodern treatise on Baudrillard’s idea. While I enjoy the occasional postmodern brainfart as much as anyone, Blinn really kind of pushes it, making it so it seems every other sailor onboard is able to hold forth on media discourse, even including a stereotypical, tweed jacketed, professor who just happens to be teaching a course on the artifice of religion aboard the carrier. It’s really all a bit show-offy.

I was planning to be all snarky – well, snarkier – in this review when I realised I’ve not read Simulacra and Simulacrum myself, so no real intellectual authority here. Anyway, didn’t like Aardvark all that much.

The Aardvark is Ready for War
(ISBN No: 1560255463) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.


1 Response to “Reads: The Aardvark is Ready for War”

  1. 1 Matt Briggs July 12, 2009 at 2:44

    I don’t agree that it is thinly disguised at all. I don’t think the book aims at presenting itself as a naturalistic fiction set in Operation Desert Storm. The War was if anything unreal, and as a veteran of the conflict I recall spending a great deal of time trying to make sense of what was happening as it was happening. The call at the time, “This will not be another Vietnam,” and it wasn’t. If anything the dream in Vietnam was to dominate the enemy through technology to the point where it would present a minimum of risk to American Soldiers (and maximum risk to the enemy.) Unlike the the current conflict, Operation Desert Storm was a realization of this dream. The cost of this though was to place soldiers in a massive, mediated echo chamber. I think the movie Three Kings did a fine job of capturing this, as did this book. This book doesn’t aim to capture a “real” experience. Instead it aims, and i think succeeds at capturing the reality of the unreality (to get all po-mo).

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