Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Kevin Taylor & r & Jarhead by Anthony Swofford & r & Once, when I was a kid, I got sent to wake up my dad for dinner. He was a cop and worked weird shifts. I crept into the mysterious dim room where my parents slept and started to shake his shoulder. With what I remember as a desperate roar -- and faster than I had ever seen him move -- he had me around the torso and hurled me across the room.


It was only later -- hours, days, weeks; I don't recall -- that my mother said always to call softly in order to wake Dad. Never touch him. He had been in the infantry in the Pacific and had nightmares about Japanese soldiers sprinting toward his position. Getting to the truth of this is impossible. I have only my mother's sparse sentence. My father never spoke of the war.


It's pretty common, this silence from soldiers. The rest of us are left with another bald thought: War is unspeakable.


Anthony Swofford's Jarhead, his unsparing memoir of the first Gulf War, speaks the unspeakable. A Marine Corps scout and sniper, Swofford was among the few soldiers trained to kill deliberately -- one person at a time, with a high-powered, highly accurate, long-range rifle.


But he never fired the rifle at anybody; the Gulf War was over too fast. The beauty of Jarhead is letting people realize that the screaming forge of combat isn't the unspeakable part. No, that starts way earlier, when a teenage kid enlists for a variety of complicated reasons, or in the way the military runs on cruelty and lies, because that's what we call tradition. The unspeakable is in the training, the deployment, the waiting, because all the time there is combat between who you were, who you are and who you want to be.


With the shooting war over, Swofford's platoon is ordered to clear bodies and gear out of Iraqi bunkers. With a soldier's eye, he describes the gear that belonged to the dead, observing that they were front-line soldiers who didn't clean their rifles. It's an observation that packs a lot into a few words, and Jarhead is full of them. It takes time to get it all out and get it straight, something the film adaptation can't do as well. In Jarhead, Swofford does it one compelling sentence at a time.


For all the people who've lived with the silence of former soldiers, this book is like finally getting that good, long talk.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Rich Man, Poor Men
  • Rich Man, Poor Men

    Can the wealthiest U.S. president ever help the poorest U.S. citizens?
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • La Resistance
  • La Resistance

    Michael Moore, Congressional Democrats and local progressives: How they are resisting Donald Trump's agenda
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Must-See TV?
  • Must-See TV?

    Alternatives to the inauguration (and how to make watching more fun if you have to)
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Women's March on Spokane

Women's March on Spokane @ Spokane Convention Center

Sat., Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • Positive Protest

    Why peaceful action should be understood as a point of national pride
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


scandal


scandals


Briefs


green zone


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Trump vs. Jesus
  • Trump vs. Jesus

    Why my conservative Christian parents can't vote for the Republican for president this time
    • Sep 22, 2016

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation