The difference between journalists and writers is that journalists report events after the fact, constructing images from rumor and hearsay, presenting it as fact. Writers live in the moment. They pen what they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell – not purporting it to be fact, but only what was experienced.
Sarah Chayes begins The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban as a journalist and ends as a writer: the difference is starkly obvious. As such, I found the beginning of the book slow and mundane, but the rest an exciting and rich source of information. Overall, the book is a marked second to The Places In Between, but her summation of the history of Afghanistan, focusing particularly on the city of Kandahar, is well worth the read. And her exposure of the weakness of the Karzai government, the meddling of Pakistan, and the critique of post-Taliban U.S. policy is a crucial piece of insight into the region’s modern standing.