Swofford’s book is a book of short, non-fiction stories. I hadn’t realised this when I started reading, but I do realise now that there’s only one page and one story left when you’re done. One message, in fact. I now imagine all of Swofford’s tales being written in the Suck, at barracks, or in the Desert, amongst the mirage, like all the letters he writes for family, for lovers, for Any Marine Girls. This as he fills hours which, on reflection, were wasted. Maybe even marked out as such by the generals in some grand fucked-up battle plan.
Swoffie’s stories are honest. Above all, they tell of life. Tangibly. Throughout the book we read about his reality, his father who was in the Air Force after his father, we hear of the father’s brother who was in the marines. Swofford’s brother who cleaned teeth, then went into Military Intelligence. We read about Kristina, Swofford’s girlfriend, who feels like tattered baggage he doesn’t want to have, but needs. And his Vietnamese girlfriend down the road from her, who he loves more, to whom he sends money. We read about these strands of his personal life as the mirage in between patches of desert. We wake up to the world with sand in our crotch.
We learn about the unintended protagonist. We hear about his war, and we understand something of him. This man becomes a friend through our many interactions. A troubled friend, but one all people would be glad to have. Like many soldiers. The man who is not a hero and as such becomes a sort of hero. By the end, we don’t even hear Jake Gyllenhaal’s voice anymore. Long before the end in fact. We hear Anthony Swofford. And we hear the restless pain, the frustration of the desert, when it doesn’t sleep.
The scars of war are terrible. And so, Swofford tells us, don’t do it. We have enough to worry about as it is.
Reblogged from hippocras.wordpress.org, now in stasis.