Friday, July 2, 2010

Too Legit to Quit

General Stanley Allen McChrystal's Rolling Stone fiasco is sort of old news by now; after President Obama sent him packing, he quietly announced his retirement earlier this week. For most people, retirement offers a chance to pursue hobbies or travel, and they actively look forward to it. I have a suspicion, however, that the man who masterminded Operation Strike of the Sword (and eliminated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) will not be fulfilled by gardening -- or even the possibility of owning a boat with a silly name and a cooler stocked full of Bud Light Lime.

So, the million-dollar is question for Gen. McChrystal is: what's next? I was betting on some morally dubious Blackwater consulting deal, but this Daily Beast article surprised me. According to one of McChrystal's close Army pals, who was interviewed for the piece, "the only thing I ever heard him say he wanted to do, after he completed his mission in Afghanistan… was eventually retire and open a bookstore." WHOA.

Well, whaddaya know, Stan -- Politics & Prose, one of America's most venerated independent bookstores, is for sale! Located in Washington, D.C. (incidentally not far from where my mother lives, so I have enjoyed many a browse through its aisles), Politics & Prose is a community icon. It's an absolute must-stop on an author tour, and D.C.'s relatively strong concentration of educated, high-performing residents -- at least the liberals -- view it as a bastion of cultural enlightenment. The prospect of its closure has peeps straight-up trippin'. Several prospective buyers have thrown their hats in the ring, but I worry that they are driven more by idealism than a realistic vision for keeping an independent bookshop thriving in the coming years. That challenge is one for a very special person. A person with vision, discipline, strategy... a person called STANLEY McCHRYSTAL.

Lest you dismiss ex-General Stanley McChrystal out of hand, he's more qualified than you might think to lead a literary counter-insurgency. He was the Managing Editor of The Pointer, West Point's literary magazine; he even wrote seven pieces of short fiction for it. And check out this quote from Dexter Filkins’s NYT McChrystal masterpiece, ‘ “If you were to go into his house, he has this unreal library,” Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, McChrystal’s intelligence chief and longtime friend, told me this summer. “You can go over and touch a binding and ask him, ‘What’s that one about?’ And he’ll just start. His bad habit is wandering around old bookstores. He’s not one of these guys that just reads military books. He reads about weird things too. He’s reading a book about Shakespeare right now.” ’ I also expect he'll write a memoir, which is sure to be interesting reading, and the advance he would get should about cover the asking price of the store, which is purportedly in the region of $2 million.

However, I'm sure he'd want to shake things up a bit once he took command, starting with P & P's name: "politics" is a very sensitive word for him at the moment, although Coalition Forces & Prose unfortunately doesn't have quite the same ring to it... Maybe he'll open a rare book room to match that of Powell's in Portland, and channel his determination into amassing an unrivalled collection. My personal hope, though is that his habit of only eating one meal a day will lead him to get rid of that dark little cafe in the store's basement, perhaps turning it into a gym, or even a bar (with Bud Light Lime as the house special, natch).

No comments:

Post a Comment