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Review: Carmen Gentile's 'Blindsided by the Taliban'

Carmen Gentile

Carmen Gentile is a man who embodies the duality of luck. On the one hand, he's staggeringly unlucky in the sense that he's surely one of few people who have been shot in the face with a rocket-propelled grenade. On the other, he's one of the luckiest in that he survived it.

In "Blindsided by the Taliban," Gentile's written an account of his experience as an embedded reporter working in Afghanistan, his injury, and his subsequent convalescence—both physical and psychological. It's a quick read—no wading through loads of masturbatory prose and self-indulgent contemplation about the meaning of life or the horrors of modern warfare.

It's also goddamn honest. Refreshingly so.

Gentile writes as though he's revealing a deeply personal experience to old friends around a bonfire after taking a few slugs off the bottle being passed around. His personality drips from every chapter. He's self-effacing, often blunt, occasionally contemplative. Although most authors writing their memoirs would go to great lengths to disguise the unsavory or embarrassing parts of their past, Gentile doesn't omit even his most uncomfortably intimate moments—from urinary catheters to heroin addiction, hotel porn to vengeful emails from his ex-fiancee. This book wasn't written to aggrandize his self-image. Gentile guides the reader through a litany of his life's missteps, but one can't help but exculpate him if for no other reason than he owns it. All of it. No excuses.

A story like this could have easily devolved into a lachrymose, self-pitying account of the author's misfortune—or worse, a trite, proselytizing recital urging the reader to seize the day like some inspirational poster in a dentist's office. Instead, it's clever and humorous. It causes one to chuckle and shake one's head. Gentile never takes himself too seriously, even when dealing with some seriously heady topics.

Some books give you much-needed perspective, raising a mirror to your life and causing you to realize the triviality of most of your day-to-day issues. This is one such book. No matter how badly my day may be going, it's not I've-been-shot-in-the-head-with-an-anti-tank-weapon bad.

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