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Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus Hardcover – 25 Jul 2006
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Goltz achieves a good balance between the adventure of his personal experiences in the area, and the historical, cultural and political background of his subject matter. It's very enlightening without ever feeling academic, and very lively without ever feeling indulgent.
Having traveled in Georgia and lived in Abkhazia in '98-'99, the 'travelogue' aspect of the book brought back vivid memories, and rang true to what I saw and experienced. What I lacked then, but Goltz provides in spades, is a broader historical background and analysis of Georgian history and the Abkhazian conflict (Goltz is obviously well-read in a number of disciplines, and vividly draws on cultural as well and political history).
Though definitely in the realm of 'war porn', Goltz' account is nonetheless refreshingly light and humorous - there's a boyish 'oh boy' quality to his writing, unlike the heavier adolescent angst and drama evident in most 'war porn'.
(On a such a contentious subject, there is probably no way to devise an objectivity that satisfies all parties, but as someone with no dog in the fight, his account strikes me as scrupulously objective)
Heartily recommended - a vivid, easy read, but with real depth.
Instead, like the worst kind of self-aggrandizing hipster, he goes on and on about he was there before everyone else and witnessed the 'bad old days', and like a tabloid writer he sprints through the book without the levity and literary reflection which make Michael Herr or Anna Badkhen or even Hemingway exceptional writers about times of conflict. Goltz's characterizations are consummately unoriginal, the landscape is almost non-existent, and the smells and sounds of these places are put before you in high school short story-level declarative sentences. Nor is there any sense of history soaked into the text, just catty received opinions and ground-level siphoning. At best you will close the book with a drifting, incomplete sense of what life in Georgia was like at the time. I've never needed to put so much effort into mentally finishing an author's job that I did with this book.
Mr Goltz, should he ever write another book, would do better to either decide who his audience is and write directly to them, or admit he doesn't know who the audience is, and so approach the subject without insider references, journalistic cliches, and personal firewater that no one outside of his friends would be interested in. Even the fascinating mystery of the Freddy Woodruff's death is made flat, though somewhere in there you get the sense it really touched him.
The Caucasus very much needs English-language scholars, critics, advocates, and people like Goltz who are brave enough to do in and do the dirty work. But Thomas Goltz just as badly needs a ghostwriter.
Another time finally came and I was blown away. Before reading it, I had no clue how important -- strategically maybe but symbolically definitely -- Georgia is in the geopolitical chess match. What I thought would be the story of a small nation turned out to be the story of all the world.
It's been less than a year since Russia and Georgia fought a brief war at the start of the Olympics, yet it seems like much longer because the news cycle rolled over and past Georgia long ago. The one question I had last summer, the one that CNN either could not or would not answer, was: What exactly are they fighting for?
After reading "Georgia Diary," I might forgive CNN because the situation is so complicated (but fascinating) that they would still be trying to explain it today. I highly recommend this book; you will not only learn the answer to the question, but you will also walk away with so much more.