Maybe editors should only ever be gratified, never startled, to come across a photograph of someone caught actually reading what they publish. Startled somewhat we were, however, by this image. A someone in camouflage and with an assault rifle to hand: not your average phantom subscriber. It is in fact a young officer in the British army serving in Afghanistan and he’s one of the illustrations in a newly published military memoir called The Junior Officers’ Reading Club, whose author, Patrick Hennessey, has now resigned from the army to become a lawyer. He helped start the club when he was in Iraq and then took it with him to Afghanistan. He describes it as a product of ‘a post-9/11 army of graduates and wise-arse Thatcherite kids’, and then lets it be known, so as to bring out the remarkable extent of the literary turn the service has now taken, that its activities in Afghanistan come under the heading of Operation Herrick – unless that honours a different Herrick from the ‘gather ye rosebuds’ man.
It’s hard to know whether the LRB should now be planning to make use of 2Lt Will Harries’s photograph – disappointingly captioned as being of him only ‘playing with guns’ – by way of a publicity windfall; it would be nice to imagine, however, that the army’s own hard-pressed recruiters might exploit it, as suggesting the opportunities for the mind’s improvement that may come up in the empty intervals between the gunfire.