Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Books: From Baghdad With Love & Jarhead

This is a quote from an astonishingly tepid review of Anthony Swofford's Jarhead from Amazon:
  • When the last page has been turned, the reader has gained a small measure of understanding about what being a soldier is really like, but that is all.
That is all? All? That is not enough? The reviewer was, by his own admission, confused. It can't have been the big words, so maybe it was the big thoughts.

I read Jarhead as a companion piece to Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman's From Baghdad With Love. Kopelman's book is about the humanising effect a puppy has on him after half a life-time immersed in the Marine Corps' ethic of "Don't feel; kill." Jarhead filled in the background beautifully -- as in "fully" and "beautifully written": the boy drawn to the Corps; what the training is designed to do and how it succeeds; the life of the warrior. And the warriors are different to you and me. The wonder is not that so many leave the services and have trouble adjusting to civilian life; the wonder is that anyone ever recovers.

Kopelman's book is recommended to all my doggy-loving friends, but be warned: it's not just about the dog. Swofford's book is -- well, I go with A. L. Kennedy: "A terrific memoir: intelligently self-aware, moving and considered."

Hmm, that applies to both.


  1. Hey you :) I'm glad you liked "From Baghdad" I went back to read what I had blogged about it and it was all positive too...

    I've caught up with your hospital progress - are they the most boring places on earth? Yes, I think they are... Dave used to schedule production meetings around his infusion days - as in "Lets meet on the 11th floor at at, oh, say ten am?" so he wouldn't be bored... Well, hell, it passed the time... ;)

  2. I read Jarhead 4?5? years ago, when it first came out. I thought it was excellent.
    Hey, look up "Drop City" by T.C. Boyle and tell me if you think it looks interesting. I just finished it and can send it on.