Dateline Kurdistan

I haven’t heard a lot of noise about Denis Johnson‘s article about economic development in Kurdistan in the March issue of Portfolio. That surprised me a little, because Tree of Smoke was such a buzzy book and because the Denis-Johnson-is-in-Iraq! meme was pretty popular in the days before it was announced he’d won the National Book Award.

Whatever my reservations about Tree of Smoke, Johnson’s article is a tremendous read, a rangy, deeply researched piece about how northern Iraq is getting reshaped in terms of everything from oil to shopping to media to bowling. I have no idea what Nick Denton is all pissy about–just read it. There are tons of quotable bits, but I like this:

And the Kurds love Americans. Love, love. Investors swarm in from all over the globe, and foreigners are common in Erbil, but if you mention tentatively and apologetically that you’re American, a shopkeeper or café owner is likely to take you aside and grip your arm and address you with the passionate sincerity of a drunken uncle: “I speak not just for me but all of Kurdish people. Please bring your United States Army here forever. You are welcome, welcome. No, I will not accept your money today, please take these goods as my gift to America.”

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