If I was behind the times in getting round to reading The Da Vinci Code, then I’m definitely off pace with this book, as by the time I even purchased a copy the focus of the work had been dead for about a year.
Morgan Spurlock is a documentary film maker, probably best known for his film, Super Size Me, which I must get round to seeing at some point, as it sounds quite interesting.
In this book, which accompanied one of his movies, Spurlock travels the world looking for OBL, or rather, travels the world trying to find out about the man, and the reasons behind his beliefs. In a cleverly written introduction, Spurlock discusses the West’s habit for creating fear and panic, listing the various enemies, plagues and health warnings that the US has lost it’s shit over in the last twenty-odd years. Confronting this fear, and with a baby on the way he wishes to protect, Spurlock begins his journey.
Spurlock travels through much of the Middle East and visits the front line of the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan, where he talks to soldiers and locals about the effect the conflict has had on them.
There are also interesting parts where he visits the UK and France and looks at the factors that led citizens of these countries to become walking, talking bombs in a holy war. Spurlock doesn’t throw up any new theories (poverty, lack of integration, feelings of persecution and alienation etc.) but its a nice touch and part of what I feel is the real point of the book- which is to provide a simple introduction to the whole jihad movement and its history.
Spurlock visits Israel, which is cited by many of his interviewees as one of the reasons for anti-American feeling in their communities as well as Saudi Arabia, which seems a fascinating, slightly grim land of contradictions, where men who have grown rich from American oil money fund anti-American groups and basic human rights are crushed.
Perhaps one of the most interesting sequences for me was when he met Martin McGuinness, a former member of the IRA and now a Sinn Fein MP. Here he discusses with McGuinness the peace process in Ireland and how similar things could be achieved in the rest of the world, and its an interesting section.
Spurlock is a likable, funny narrator and seems a genuinely tidy, down-to-earth sort of bloke, which means he makes a good guide on this journey. His shock and discomfort at some of the customs regarding women in the Middle East never feels judgemental, just a reflection of how different it is from the liberal Western world he lives in, and feels like a response most people would have.
He gives a lot of interesting information and explores an issue that is sprawling and complex in an easy, often humorous manner, meaning the book can serve as an introduction to the issue for pretty much anyone.
The one problem is that Spurlock does at times come across as being a bit naive, and you feel a braver writer might have delved a little deeper into the murkiness of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Although it could be argued, that due to the overall tone of the book it wouldn’t have worked and also, that the conflict is merely one facet of the larger issue.
What I particularly liked was that as Spurlock makes his way into this world he keeps his eyes open, and is willing to accept that he doesn’t know the whole situation. He learns new things along the way and never gets on his soapbox.
It called to mind Michael Moore, or rather, when I lost it with Michael Moore. I read Moore’s book Stupid White Men, and much of it is very interesting and entertaining, with Moore being very on the ball when it comes to American politics and problems. However, when he took a look at things like the Cubans in Florida or the situation in Northern Ireland, he came across as an idiotic blowhard who seemed out of his depth, voicing opinions that were ill formed and simplistic. It totally turned me off to Moore’s work and I haven’t had much time for the man since.
It’s nice that Spurlock doesn’t fall into these traps, and remains an engaging, clever narrator.
Verdict: A well written, entertaining and intelligent look at the war on terror, Spurlock is a great narrator and the book is a nice, easy way in to a complicated global issue. 7/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO