Exum, Andrew 1978–
Exum, Andrew 1978–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1978, in Chattanooga, TN; son of a journalist and an educator. Education: University of Pennsylvania, graduated 2000; studied Arabic at American University (Beirut, Lebanon).
ADDRESSES: Home—Beirut, Lebanon. Agent—Hector DeJean, Senior Publicist, Gotham Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer. Military service: U.S. Army Ranger; became captain; discharged 2004, served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
AWARDS, HONORS: Distinguished Writing Award, Army Historical Foundation, 2004, for This Man's Army.
This Man's Army: A Soldier's Story from the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism (memoir), Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Salon.com.
SIDELIGHTS: Andrew Exum chronicled his stint as a ranger in the U.S. military in This Man's Army: A Soldier's Story from the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism, which was described by Entertainment Weekly reviewer Karyn L. Barr as "a fast-paced, politically unbiased account" of military life. Exum joined the Army in 2000, and after the September, 2001, terrorist attacks he found himself first stationed in Kuwait, then fighting in Afghanistan. Although he had long been a writer, it did not occur to him to write a book about being a soldier until an alumnus from Exum's alma mater, who saw some of Exum's writing in the University of Pennsylvania Gazette and who is now an editor, contacted Exum and asked him to do so. It took him months to find the time to work on the book, until he injured his knee and was laid up with nothing else to do but write.
Exum joined the army for motives that were almost entirely personal. As he wrote in This Man's Army about his decision to join the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) as a student: "I wanted to be a killer. I wanted to be something elite, like a Navy SEAL or Army Ranger. I wanted to be something I could brag about when I got old." This attitude stays with him through his deployment in Kuwait, which mostly involves driving convoys on patrols around the country and which he finds excruciatingly boring. He and his unit are enthusiastic when they are told that they are being sent to Afghanistan, but the closer Exum comes to actually having to kill someone, the more contemplative he becomes.
The son of a journalist and an English teacher, Exum graduated from an Ivy League university with a degree in English and classics. This upbringing and education colored his perceptions of military life and is evident in the ways he writes about what he did and felt, with frequent quotations from and allusions to ancient Greek literature and modern American novels. "I tend to think historically," Exum told an interviewer from the University of Pennsylvania Gazette, "so my references to the Ancient Greeks were certainly things I was thinking about as I was going through my own experiences." Some critics, including Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributor John D. Thomas, considered the literary references to be an "overly earnest attempt to come off as erudite," but to Hollywood Reporter critic Gregory McNamee they helped make the book "a literate kill-and-tell tale of life in olive drab."
Overall, This Man's Army was highly praised by many reviewers. Thomas himself declared it "a smart, humble, empathetic and extremely honest examination of the postmodern military condition." The book is "a must," Frederik Balfour concluded in Business Week, "for anyone wanting to grasp the experience of the trigger-pullers in today's U.S. military."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Exum, Andrew, This Man's Army: A Soldier's Story from the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 4, 2004, John D. Thomas, review of This Man's Army.
Business Week, August 9, 2004, Frederik Balfour, "Fresh Killing Fields," p. 10.
Entertainment Weekly, June 18, 2004, Karyn L. Barr, review of This Man's Army, p. 90.
Hollywood Reporter, November 8, 2004, Gregory McNamee, "Tense Drama Links Warriors from Battlefields to Gridiron," p. 24.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of This Man's Army, p. S9.
University of Pennsylvania Gazette, July-August, 2004, interview with Andrew Exum.
Chattanoogan.com, http://www.chattanoogan.com/ (June 18, 2005), "Andrew Exum Honored with Book Award."
This Man's Army Web site, http://www.thismansarmy.com/ (August 10, 2005).