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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

Red Tile Roofs

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 30, 2014

I’m driving back from the Golan Heights with Eli. We’re on Route 6, the toll road south, passing an Arab town in Israel and I’m asking him if he believes there is any hope for peace.

Solar

Solar panels count even more

“Yes, and I will tell you why,” he says. “Look over there at that town.”

Eli calls my attention to the roofs.

“In Arab towns, even here in Israel, you will always see flat roofs. Flat roofs with rebar—iron bars for reinforcing concrete—sticking straight up out of the perimeter of the roof. Why? Because in Arab families, when the eldest son becomes engaged to be married, he is usually so broke that he has no choice but to move in, he and his bride, with his parents. He can’t afford a home of his own. That’s why you see the flat roofs. The family builds an apartment, an additional story on top of the house, and the son and his new wife move in.”

In Jewish Israeli towns, Eli continues, you never see flat roofs. You see sloped roofs, red-tiled roofs. Why? Because the sons, when they become engaged, are prosperous enough to buy their own homes. They don’t have to move in with their parents. (more…)

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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

How to Write a War Memoir (or any memoir)

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 23, 2014

I am dangling beneath my parachute. Gazing down from a height of 10,000 feet, knowing I am going to be killed in less than fifteen minutes, I feel great sorrow for myself. None of my fellow pilots who’ve parachuted into the Nile Delta has survived the encounter with the welcoming committee below, and I have no reason to think my fate will be any different.

"Solitary" by Giora Romm

This is the first paragraph of the true-life memoir of Israeli fighter ace Giora Romm, titled Solitary, which was a best-seller in its original Hebrew under the title Tulip Four, Romm’s aircraft’s call-sign on the day he was shot down.

How do you write a war memoir (or any kind of true story)?

Tens of thousands of such tales have been published and no doubt thousands more are in the works right now. Veterans of Vietnam and Desert Storm, of OIF and Afghanistan have sought in countless manuscripts to tell their stories, to recount what they’ve done and witnessed and felt.

What makes a memoir work? Why do we read one and put another aside?

When you get down to about 2,000 feet, you can feel the ground approaching, and the rate of descent seems to accelerate with each passing second. The last part happens very fast. From about 100 feet above I can see that I am going to hit near a group of black-clad women who are shrieking in horror and trying to scramble out of the way. And then I hit the ground.

Within seconds, the first Egyptian villager is standing over me. Min inta? “Who are you?” he asks with much excitement. I ponder what answer will make him refrain from killing me—no easy task to gauge by the look on his face. The tumult escalates as more villagers press in towards me, shoving and yelling and trying to talk to me.

Who am I, then, at this moment?

The opening paragraphs of Giora Romm’s Solitary grip you. They suck you in.

But if you read them closely you’ll see that the deeper theme—the dimension that will elevate this narrative beyond “true war story” or “prisoner-of-war tale”—is already present.

Who am I?

Writers think in metaphors. To every event/character/narrative, they ask, “What does this stand for?” (more…)

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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Death Burst

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 20, 2014

One of the things I learned doing the interviews for The Lion’s Gate was that the best stuff often came when you least expected it.

The control stick and instrument panel of an Israeli Mirage IIIC.

It happened in breaks, or going to lunch, or after the formal interview was over. That was when people loosened up and became themselves. They brought out the insights and memories that they had kept in the vault because they deemed them marginal or “not important enough.” It was these stories that turned out to be the most fascinating and revealing.

Here’s one such nugget from Giora Romm. Romm was Israel’s first fighter ace. As a twenty-two-year-old lieutenant he shot down five Egyptian MiGs during the Six Day War.

He was in his kitchen making sandwiches for lunch when the following spilled out:

When you practice dogfighting, you go up against another pilot from your own squadron. You are both flying the same type of aircraft—in our case, a Mirage IIIC—so everything is fair and even.

In this kind of training, a kill is determined by the film in your gun camera. At the end of the day, every pilot’s film is developed. We all assemble in the briefing room to see how we have fared during that day’s training.

The rule at that time was that you had to have one full second of film—sixteen frames—with your pipper [gunsight] on the body of the other plane. But it was okay if the frames weren’t consecutive. You could have say, eight frames, then a gap, then another eight.

One day our squadron commander, Ran Ronen, who is one of the legendary fighter pilots in IAF history, called all of us together. “This is bullshit!” he said in that voice that could make you jump six inches out of your chair.

From now on, Ran said, to score a kill you had to have sixteen consecutive frames. No gaps. These sixteen frames would be called “the death burst.”

No pilot would be credited with a kill unless his gun camera showed the death burst.

We young fliers were all groaning when we heard this. Do you know how hard it is to get on another plane’s tail and keep him in your gunsights for a full second? (more…)

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