CAREER: Writer, soldier, and memoirist. Worked variously as a flower delivery person, valet, cashier, car washer, telemarketer, and retail clerk. Military service: U.S. Army, served in Iraq, became specialist.
My War: Killing Time in Iraq (memoir), Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: While serving as a soldier in Iraq, Army specialist Colby Buzzell started a Web log, or blog, chronicling his experiences in the war-damaged, politically tumultuous, perpetually dangerous Iraqi city of Mosul. Posting under a pseudonym, Buzzell related the day-to-day events in his life, including stories of combat and firefights, daily routine and daily boredom, and the terrifying punctuation of those tense and frightening moments when injury and death were averted by luck, teamwork, and skill. In My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Buzzell tells his story as a soldier, as an unexpectedly influential blogger and critic of the Bush administration, and as a newly minted author. "In gutsy, sometimes profane prose, he takes you on a soldier's-eye view of the front lines of the war," noted Elise Soukup in Newsweek. Buzzell's military career started when, as a twenty-six-year-old slacker in a dead-end job who still lived at home with his parents, he was enticed to enlist by a recruiter's promises of sign-on bonuses and his choice of military specialty. Joining to overcome the interminable sameness of his civilian life, Buzzell soon enough found himself in Iraq, fighting against the insurgency as a gunner in a Stryker brigade, riding the quick-moving, rubber-tired vehicle into and out of harrowing combat situations.
Buzzell initially started his blog as a way to unwind from the intense pressures of combat duty, and as a means of recording his experiences for his own use and for readers in other areas of the world. Soon, however, his online combat diary attracted the attention of thousands of readers around the world, and Buzzell became well-known to those who followed his writings and had an interest in the day-to-day life of a modern combat soldier. Buzzell's online work also attracted the attention of his commanders, some of whom were not pleased with what he wrote. Because of security concerns, Buzzell's writings were eventually subjected to pre-publication screening. Despite interference by the brass, Buzzell's work remained available, and popular as ever. Much of the writing in My War originated on his blog, where his "incisive reportage and brutally honest take on the war" first appeared, noted a reviewer in PR Newswire. "Some of the sharpest writing comes from the author's blog," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. Booklist reviewer Roland Green commented that even though it's too early to tell whether Buzzell has written the definitive account of the Iraq war, "he has written a book that stands quite tall in the literature of that conflict to date." In the end, "Buzzell's work never really wavers in its portrayal of American forces as the good guys in a dirty war," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Buzzell told CA: "An article in Time magazine called 'Meet Joe Blog' got me interested in writing. I was in Iraq when I read that article and after reading it I went and checked out some of the other blogs that were written by other people online and I was like, if they can do it I can do it too. So I went ahead and started a blog, where I just wrote about what I was experiencing over there in Iraq as an Infantry soldier, and one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I wrote a book and a couple things for Esquire magazine.
"When I write, I turn on the computer, open up Word, and then from there I just type away. I like to chain smoke and drink coffee when I write.
"The most surprising thing I've learned as a writer is that there are actually people out there who wanted to print and publish stuff that I've written. That still shocks me. I hope my book will make people want to publish and read more books by me."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Buzzell, Colby, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, October 15, 2005, Roland Green, review of My War, p. 22.
Entertainment Weekly, October 14, 2005, Brian Raf-tery, "War Memoirs 101: Get a Piece of Iraq," review of My War, p. 157.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2005, review of My War, p. 774.
Library Journal, September 1, 2005, John Riddick, "The Meaning of War: Afghanistan and Iraq in Six Titles," review of My War, p. 158.
Newsweek, October 10, 2005, Elise Soukup, "Memoirs: Gunning to Be in Print," review of My War, p. 10.
PR Newswire, January 31, 2005, "G.P. Putnam's Sons to Publish U.S. Army Soldier and Blogger Colby Buzzell's War Experiences on the Ground in Iraq."
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, John F. Baker, "A Soldier-Blogger in Iraq," p. 12; August 1, 2005, review of My War, p. 59.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2005, C.W. Nevius, "My War—A Soldier's Wild Ride," review of My War.
Seattle Times, November 9, 2005, Alex Fryer, "Drifter, Soldier, Author: A Keen Eye on Iraq," review of My War.
Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2004, C.D.H. Cooper, Army Blogger's Tales Attract Censor's Eyes," p. B1.
1000 Words from Iraq Web Log, http://wordsfromiraq.blogspot.com/ (September 8, 2004), "Blogging in the News."
Chiasm, http://chiasm.blog-city.com/ (February 27, 2006), profile of Colby Buzzell.
My War Web log, http://cbftw.blogspot.com (February 27, 2006).