Friday, April 26, 2013

Marine life in the desert

Book: Jarhead
Author: Anthony Swofford
Published: 2003 (Scribner)
Pages: 363

We had to read part of this in freshman English, the part where all the marines are showing off for a visiting reporter by playing touch football and eventually pretend gang-raping in their full desert protection suits. That’s a good place to start, because it shows the aggression and fear and hysteria and bravado and sand and grit and hostility that all these marines carried with them through basic training to Desert Storm.

Swofford’s a good writer. He’s eloquent, good at distinguishing everyday events that have underlying psychological terrors versus ones that are just a pain in the ass. He stands a little bit apart from the rest of the troop, not any more educated really but more inclined to introspection, but he understands and shares their compulsions. He goes a little crazy, too.

I liked going along with him as he tried to figure out what all this meant to him. He never really wanted it but it was all he had, and that gets his cynicism going wonky when he could really stand to just shut it up until he got this goddamn war over with.

He was probably the best normal guy to chronicle this sort of thing exactly because he wasn’t truly a “normal” guy in the marines but he wanted to be so badly until the absurdity (and all those cheating girlfriends, a whole wall of them from the squad) wore him down.

Bookshelf. I need to start separating my memoirs from my essay collections from my factual non-fiction. It’s getting messy.

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