This is definitely a book I shall read before Christmas. You cannot rival Krakauer for storytelling ability, and for him to take a subject like Pat Tillman and run with it is a blessing. So much is misunderstood about Pat Tillman. His family has suffered mightily at the hands of a government that should have gotten it right from the start. The unconscionable lying that went on should have sunk the career of the man currently running the Afghan War, General Stanley McChrystal.
Krakauer's book looks at Tillman's life and death with the added advantage of his journals. This is something special:
Tillman saw it coming. In a moment of foreboding, he said to a friend: "I don't want them to parade me through the streets." And yet that's exactly what happened.
From the day Tillman enlisted in June 2002, the Pentagon's perception managers coveted his story: the granite-chinned NFL star who walked away from millions to fight for his country after 9/11. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- who had opened the clandestine Office of Strategic Influence in October 2001 and was the Pentagon's most enthusiastic propagandist -- sent Tillman a laudatory note and advised Secretary of the Army Thomas White to "keep an eye on him."
Frustratingly, Tillman wouldn't cooperate. He refused requests for media interviews and quietly disappeared into the enlisted ranks of the Army's elite Rangers.
Krakauer -- whose forensic studies of the Emersonian Man in books such as "Into Thin Air" and 'Into the Wild" yield so much insight -- has turned in a beautiful bit of reporting, documenting Tillman's life with journals and interviews with those close to him. And yet a full understanding of Tillman's motivations eludes Krakauer, and us.
Why did Tillman walk away from his fortune-kissed life? Yes, honor and duty; yes, family tradition -- Tillman's great-grandfather served at Pearl Harbor. His younger brother, Kevin Tillman, enlisted with Pat and served in the same Ranger platoon; indeed, Pat thought his brother was under fire in the engagement in Khost province where he died.
But these things, honor and duty, are the virtues in which male aggression often cloaks itself. Honor and duty could have just as easily obliged Tillman to resist the war in Iraq, which he called "illegal as hell" and an act of "imperial whim."
It's clear that Tillman had a certain moral vanity. In a journal, Tillman writes: "My honor will not allow me to create a life of beauty and peace but sends me off to order and conformity. My life becomes everything I'm not. . . . I follow some philosophy I barely understand. . . ."
Perhaps the closest to the bone Krakauer gets is a borrowed quote from Nietzsche: "I love him who makes his virtue his addiction and his catastrophe. . . ."
A man that thoughtful and deep is impossible to know. And yet, we are richer for Krakauer's attempt. The book is called 'Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman' by Jon Krakauer.