Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi Grove, 206 pp., $13
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From the moment he first appeared at dear_raed.blogspot.com a little over a year ago, Salam Pax, the "Baghdad Blogger," was too good not to be real. Many netizens questioned whether a Western-educated, Britpop-loving, Burroughs-reading gay atheist Iraqi (so much for the subtitle) could really get away with skewering governments and media on both sides of the conflict in almost daily posts, but as the zero minute closed in ("Two more hours until the B52s get to Iraq," March 21, 2003, 6:05 p.m.), even skeptics hung on every word. He was funny, precise, and brave from a position no one on this side of the crosshairs will ever face, and when he reappeared weeks later, the Internet was audibly relieved. The subsequent confirmation of his identity meant the digital revolution had reached belles lettres. With his raw material floating online and the Google hits racking up logarithmically, it was inevitable that the first person famous for blogging would see his hypertext reproduced in old media. Although the paper version lazily omits his visitors' comments and most of his photos and links, the primary narrative is as gut-twisting as it was in real time. Buying it for a technophobe is a lot easier than trying to cut and paste from the Web's reverse chronological order (trust me).