War blog wins a 'blook' prize for one soldier
Colby Buzzell's record of his Iraq stint helped shape a writer.
By James Pressley
Published May 20, 2007
Colby Buzzell's My War: Killing Time in Iraq, an irreverent memoir that began as a U.S. machine-gunner's blog, won the $10, 000 Lulu Blooker Prize on Monday, defeating books about Florentine doorbells and teenagers' postcards.
Judges - including Arianna Huffington, who is known for her blogs - unanimously selected My War from more than 110 entries from 15 countries for the Blooker, which bills itself as "the world's only prize for 'blooks, ' or books based on blogs."
The award is sponsored by Lulu.com, an electronic book site "for digital do-it-yourselfers." The name plays on the title of the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary award, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
As Web logs multiply, so does the number of books they generate. Last year's winner was Julie and Julia, Julie Powell's book about her attempt to cook all 524 recipes in a Julia Child cookbook in one year in a tiny apartment kitchen.
Buzzell, a jobless skateboarder and hard rock fan from the suburbs of San Francisco, was still living at home when he joined the U.S. Army. Within months, he found himself in Iraq. He began writing a Web log from the war zone "mainly to kill time" and wound up developing a cult following.
His account of post-invasion Iraq describes a raid on an Iraqi home, a fierce firefight with "men in black, " and troops chain-smoking in a guard tower. The book based on Buzzell's blog was published last year, and he now writes frequently for magazines, including Esquire and Penthouse.
One judge, British newspaper columnist Nick Cohen, said Buzzell's stood out among other blog-based books. He compared it to Michael Herr's classic on the Vietnam War, Dispatches.
My War, Cohen said, offers an authentic look at "what it's like to be a grunt fighting in the Sunni Triangle." Buzzell might not have had the confidence to write the book if online readers hadn't been egging him on, Cohen said.
By Colby Buzzell
Berkley/Penguin, 368 pages, $15