Sunday, June 07, 2015

Scott Johnson: The Wolf and the Watchman

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The Wolf and the Watchman is a devastatingly bad book. I kept reading it because it's not unreadable, it's just bad. Scott Johnson's dad was in the CIA. He was a spy. And in case you didn't understand that the first two times I said it, Scott Johnson grew up with a dad who was a spy. Got that?

Basically Scott Johnson and his dad had/have a codependent relationship. (I kept waiting to hear that his dad was dead and he waited to publish this kind of punishing book after the death of his father, but it appears that his dad was still alive at the time of the publishing in 2013. I guess since his dad was a contractor at that time, Johnson wasn't disclosing any state secrets or anything? He also doesn't explain how, when his dad ran for state office and was outed as a former spy, it was no big deal. Isn't it like a big deal to have people know that CIA officers are CIA officers? I guess not, in this case. ) Scott and dad love each other so much and are so tied up in each other's lives that it is an interesting topic or a book. Scott seems not really to question very deeply the work his dad does except once or twice, and he does talk about that, but ultimately, he calls his dad a patriot and seems to come down on the side of CIA as doing important, patriotic work. Scott ends up as a war journalist working in many of the places that he had grown up living in when his dad was there on postings, and then his dad decides to go back to work for the CIA as a contractor and follows Scott around. Both Scott and his dad draw connections between their jobs- trying to get information from people. And Scott seems hell bent on getting information from his dad, to the point of meanness. But it's not really clear what he wants- a confession that he was an asshole? A bad guy? Complicit in something more than getting certain spies to defect (the only thing we ever really hear that he was involved in)?

There are moments when you want to like both of them- Scott is involved in an IED explosion when he is in Iraq and suffers greatly after he gets back. As a kid, Scott lived on the CIA training ground and had no idea what it was, and the story is pretty amazing. But then back to him as an adult, and this weird- we went on a trip, stayed in the woods, my dad wouldn't tell me what I wanted to hear, I went away, he followed me, I was doing the same thing as he was, over and over and over. Maybe I missed the point, or maybe this book just sucked.