Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My brush with fame: I actually know a MacArthur fellow

Ah, one step away from 'genius.' :)

In all seriousness, I love the concept of the MacArthur Fellow grants--that interesting, creative, and or brilliant individuals are given $100,000 a year for 5 years, no strings attached, to support them as they pursue their work and dreams.

In this morning's paper, I saw a familiar face: Jonathan Shay is a Boston area psychiatrist I met several years ago. Because of my interest in the physical effects of trauma, (when I'm not writing poetry or fiction, I'm a physical therapist, specializing in the treatment of chronic pain) Jonathan let me read a draft of his book Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming .

Although I don't read much in the non-fiction realm, I found Shay's parallels of the returning veteran's experiences with Odysseus from Homer's epic work to be astonishing and instructive. I quickly bought the earlier book comparing the experience of war to the Iliad. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character is as gripping and compelling a read as its sequel. While Shay was researching, treating, and writing about Viet Nam vets in these books, his texts have as much to tell us about the current generation of men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No matter your position of the war and its politics, read these two books. They should be required reading for any politician or general who puts soldiers in harm's way as well as for family members, friends, co-workers, and employers who will be dealing with the aftermath of combat related trauma.

Congratulations, Jonathan. I am so pleased that you and your work have been recognized in this way.

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