Short [non]fiction: The Shores of Tripoli

Shores of TripoliEvery week for the last month, I’ve been posting reviews of short fiction titles which I’ve read and thought were cool, interesting, or somehow noteworthy. This week I’m going to break the mold and post about a Kindle Single called The Shores of Tripoli written by Marc Herman (don’t worry I’ll post more fiction next Monday and pictures of Kobi on Wednesday!!). This is not a work of short fiction. If anything it might be considered a work of long-form journalism. Anyway, I got hooked on to this after reading a post on Tools of Change for Publishing in which Marc Herman narrates his experience with the Kindle Single Program. After reading the interview I though it might be nice to read the work and see if I thought this type of thing was going to change the way we get news or something equally as lofty. I’ll start by telling you what happens and maybe get all “meta” at the end.

What happens:

From what I can tell, it looks like this guy, Marc Herman, spent six weeks over in Libya and Tunisia while Qaddafi* soldiers where fighting the rebellion which would eventually succeed in overthrowing the Qaddafi regime.libya

*Side Note: Everywhere I’ve looked on the internet spells this name as ‘Gaddafi’. In Shores of Tripoli it is consistently spelled the way you see above. Not sure what to make of this as I haven’t been following this situation hardly at all. Maybe this is a common mix up and both spellings are accepted but I’m not really sure.

Apparently, he ’embedded’ himself within the rebel soldiers (so cool!) and tells the story from their point of view. He starts with a pretty jarring account of a young family who believes it is safe to take to the roads only to find that it isn’t. They are stopped at a check point and it is discovered that they sympathize with the rebel cause. They are immediately fired upon and the family’s father, Abdelhamid Almrayed, must drive the family to safety.

Herman goes on to tell of how Haithem Masud Hamed, witnessed videos of the events at Benghazi on websites like Youtube, and was encouraged to perform his own demonstration in Nalut. Haithem then joins the revolution and becomes a soldier. As Herman reports, Haithem must watch his good friend die in an attack on a water tower. At this point, Haithem wants to quit the revolution but there is no turning back.

Herman closes with a scene from the funeral for two members of the Almrayed family.

My thoughts:

Herman is a good writer. He can build the scenes and describe the events in a way which puts you inside the events. It is my general opinion that real life does not often share the sense of narrative logic that can be found in works of fiction, but Herman does a good job of reporting the events in a way which almost attempts that logic. He also drops in little bits and pieces about the types of weapons Qaddfi’s men are using, or the lack of a restaurant scene in Nalut because of a legal ban on alcohol. This specificity adds to the literary aspect of Herman’s work, and helps to give meaning to the events being reported.

That being said, I don’t know that I would recommend this piece unless you have been following the events in Libya and Tunisia very closely. Sadly, I had not and was often confused as to what was going on. I believe there is some play with the timeline to get the events of the Libyan revolution to sit neatly in the framework of the Almrayed family’s tragic story but I am not sure.

Kindle Singles and long-form journalism?

“If they are not paying attention, it doesn’t mean they don’t want the story or can’t handle the story. It means the way we’re telling it isn’t very interesting or useful or fulfilling.” — Marc Herman, A war story, a Kindle Single, and hope for long-form journalism

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

I won’t be relying on this medium to keep up-to-date on current events, but I don’t think  that is the point of this type publication. As Marc seems to be saying in the quote above, it is a way to present the information to readers that will engage their attention. I will admit that I knew almost nothing about the Libyan Revolution, Qaddafi, or Benghazi until I read this piece. I don’t know a ton about it now, but my interest is piqued.

And long-form journalism isn’t anything new, but  I could see how journalists would be discouraged from writing pieces like this in the past. It takes a long time to do the research (weeks or even months), and it takes up a lot of space in the publication so publishers might not be inclined to publish this type of material. However, it seems that it is quite popular. If freelancers can publish this type of work easily through the Kindle Single program, then it seems like there could finally be a supply to appease the demand. I suppose that is a good thing if individual journalists are willing to take the risk.

That’s all for now guys. Hurry back on Wednesday for more Kobi pics 🙂

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