Monday, February 17, 2014

Adrian Bonenberger's "Afghan Post"

Adrian Bonenberger deployed twice to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army infantry, witnessing some of the most savage fighting of the counter-insurgency. He has written for the New York Times and Policy Mic, and is currently a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He recently published his war memoirs, Afghan Post, through The Head and The Hand Press.

Here Bonenberger dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of Afghan Post:
If I had an opportunity to bring Afghan Post to screen, the first thing I’d do is cast Channing Tatum as myself. Tatum is a healthy, strong young man (like I was at the time – I mean, I was probably a bit stronger, and I remember myself being handsomer), and capable of delivering emotionally honest performances with an intensity that many other mainstream actors seem to lack these days (see his work in Side Effects). At the same time, his comedic timing is usually dead on, and much of living through war, is keeping a very wide bandwidth for possible laughs – 21 Jump Street and its sequel look to be equal blends action and humor, which would be perfectly suited for Afghan Post. The book walks a line between dark humor and drama, and the movie would require an agile protagonist, capable of inhabiting several roles simultaneously, as so much of what occurs is emotional.

Because Afghan Post is epistolary, and delivered entirely by my voice, the movie would have to depart significantly from the book – I think that would make it exciting to re-invent given the space available to create coherent visual wholes within the space of ten years. I suppose the simplest thing to do would be to set it during my second deployment, with flashbacks to training and my first deployment – sort of an expanded vision of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line subplot, wherein a former U.S. Army Engineer officer is left by his beautiful wife while fighting in the Pacific. My girlfriend at the time could be played by Helena Bonham Carter, and the woman I’m with at the end of Afghan Post could be played by Anne Hathaway, on both accounts due to superficial resemblance and acting skill.

The truth is that there are stories far better suited to the screen than my own – I wasn’t writing this story to be adapted, or read, so much as felt – the transition of a combat veteran from a basically decent, ordinary human being to an alcoholic wreck. Because I wrote Afghan Post as the latter, it was difficult to imagine the former.
Learn more about Afghan Post at The Head and The Hand Press.

Read about Bonenberger's list of ten of the best contemporary war novels.

The Page 99 Test: Afghan Post.

--Marshal Zeringue