George Packer's judgment often proves too nuanced by half
Writings from a Turbulent Decade
by George Packer
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George Packer, a staff writer for the New Yorker since 2003, is plainly a master of his craft. The eight years' worth of reporting collected in his new anthology, Interesting Times—culled from the New Yorker as well as several other general-interest magazines—showcases his eye for the telling detail: "The children's legs swelled for lack of salt," he notes in recounting the plight of a family from Sierra Leone chased into the bush by marauding rebels. The anthology also nicely points up his ear for the cutting and memorable quote: "We're like a frigging organ transplant that's rejected," an army officer says of the United States presence in Iraq.
Packer captures scenes that, particularly in his Iraq reporting, give a hearty sense of the absurd. During a hectic meeting between dueling Sunni and Shiite factions in
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