Sunday, October 22, 2006


I went through all of my reading material the first few days in Africa. I found a worn paperback copy of Jarhead in my room and I haven't been able to put it down since. I am not really a big war book fan, but I have read a few spy books and being in a compound surrounded by burly Texans and Scots felt a lot like a few episodes of M*A*S*H, so it felt appropriate. I really had no idea what I was picking up. I seem to recall some sort of furor about it a few years ago, and from the paperback cover I can see that they made a movie about it (I know, I suck. Apparently I was living in a cave at the time) but that is pretty much all the background I had before starting the first page. By the end of the first chapter it was clear that Anthony Swofford is a shit-hot writer and that I was going to get a glimpse into the raw, fragile psyche of a young man who has not only seen and done some serious shit, but who has also done some serious analysis of himself and of the USMC.

The following paragraph from the first chapter has stuck with me for days. Swofford is talking about how, after getting their orders, his unit goes out and gets every war movie they can find and then they sit and watch and drink and get themselves ready for combat. Swofford talks about the ironic fact that our most famous anti war movies, movies that the general population would list as being commentaries on the cruelty and uselessess of war, are actually fuel that fires the murderous agression in these young military minded men.

Filmic images of carnage and death are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his First Fuck. It doesn't matter how many Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons are antiwar--the actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not.

I wonder how Coppola feels about this.