War is one of the few great literary topics. Since Homer immortalized
the Trojan War 3,000 years ago, legions of writers have been glorifying,
lamenting, dissecting, and parodying the soldier's life. So, can the world
really bear yet another soldier's memoir? If the reception Anthony Swofford
received last year for his Gulf War memoir is any indication, the answer
is an unqualified yes. Only time will confirm or deny the early enthusiasm
of reviewers, but if they got it right, Jarhead will remain in
print for decades to come. This is not only because it is the best chronicle
yet written about the soldier's life near the turn of the third millennium.
But also because Anthony Swofford, like only the very best writers, is
able to draw his readers into the particular conundrums, thrills, terrors,
and absurdities of his experiences in the Persian Gulf and make us feel
they are our own. Farley, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In his New York Times
bestselling chronicle of military life, Anthony Swofford weaves his experiences in war with vivid accounts of boot camp, reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family.
When the U.S. Marines -- or "jarheads" -- were sent to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for the first Gulf War, Anthony Swofford was there. He lived in sand for six months; he was punished by boredom and fear; he considered suicide, pulled a gun on a fellow marine, and was targeted by both enemy and friendly fire. As engagement with the Iraqis drew near, he was forced to consider what it means to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man.
"Jarhead is some kind of classic, a bracing memoir of the 1991 Persian Gulf war that will go down with the best books ever written about military life." Mark Bowden, New York Times Book Review
"A witty, profane, down-in-the-sand account of the war many only know from CNN....With blunt language and bittersweet humor, [Swofford] vividly recounts the worrying, drinking, joking, lusting and just plain sitting around that his troop endured..." Publishers Weekly
"Anthony Swofford's Gulf War memoir, Jarhead, could hardly be more timely. But the author, who served as a Marine sniper in Desert Storm, has wisely avoided virtually every nod toward direct commentary on current politics and every cliché of battlefield memoir....Jarhead emerges as a scary, detailed, well-written indictment of life in the military." Marc Herman, Mother Jones
"By turns profane and lyrical, swaggering and ruminative, Jarhead...is not only the most powerful memoir to emerge thus far from
the last gulf war, but also a searing contribution to the literature of
combat, a book that combines the black humor of Catch-22 with the savagery
of Full Metal Jacket and the visceral detail of The Things They Carried." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Writing graphically and in the Marines' defiantly vulgar argot, Swofford candidly exhibits his negative feelings and his comradeship with buddies belly to the sand." Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"This is a book that smokes and screams in your hands. With a sniper's cold and unforgiving eye, Swofford has found the nexus between nihilism and language, a language ripped, homegrown, American-made, trashy and lyrical and bold. He hits the troubling, difficult mark again and again in this remarkable memoir. Brash, honest, and most unnerving, Jarhead delivers corsucating and unpleasant truths about war and warriors." Joy Williams
"Yes, there have been many, many books about combat in the Gulf War, but none as beautifully written or as ferocious as Jarhead
. Anthony Swofford's account of his life on the front lines is so honest and uncompromising as to be brutal." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
"There are varieties of pain in Jarhead
, submerged beneath the terrors of battle and the pangs of a rotten crotch, so exquisite they'd do a torturer proud. The biographical information on the book's jacket flap explains that Swofford attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and it's easy to imagine him there, this guy who read The Iliad
during breaks in weapons training. I can picture him striving to make a new, better life that transcends the 'loneliness and poverty of spirit' of his jarhead adventures, while surrounded by fresh-faced, unscarred young aspirants who envy him his fabulous, fabulous material." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon review
When the Marines were sent to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, Anthony Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. From his arrival, he experienced one misery after another as he lived in sand for six months, was punished by boredom and fear, and was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. Raw, powerful, and emotional, Jarhead is Swofford's scorching memoir of life on and off the battlefield, and a harrowing yet inspiring portrait of a tormented consciousness struggling for inner peace.
About the Author
Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.