Thursday, September 07, 2006
So what do you do when a favorite journalist pens a hefty tome on you first political rememberance? You drop some coin for the hardback and savor every syllable. That's what I did with Guests of the Ayatollah, Mark Bowden's 637 page chronicle of the Iran Hostage Crisis. As he did in Killing Pablo and Black Hawk Down, Bowden weaves diverging timelines into rapid-fire situation reports, making the reader feel like a fellow operative on whatever dark exploits he examines. Here, Bowden has much to juggle: the clumsy yet effective takeover of a sleepy embassy by idealistic and often bumbling college students, the decaying mental state of the 66 American staffers caught in a surreal slumber party of deprivation and third world fervor, the seeming paralysis of President Carter to do anything about it, and the foolhardy courage of a young Delta Force - training for a daunting rescue mission that would end in confusion and spilled blood at a place called Desert One. Like the humiliating and protracted stalemate it describes, Guests of the Ayatollah bogs down somewhere in the middle. But all is forgiven at book's end, when the epic tale of America vs. Iran comes to a troubling close. It's the all too probable sequel that worries me.