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John Brown spent his formative years in Ohio. Lee idolatry but in marked counterpoint to our current Commander-in-Chief. Both novels feature young Ohio men of no particular means or ambition who join the military, fight overseas, and return or, at least some of them return to Ohio locales defined by few economic prospects and rampant drug use-and-abuse. The two novels differ in their basic regard for the military, too.
In Cherry , the narrator, based on Walker himself, is contemptuous of the Army he joins, finding little value in its ideals, missions, and methods, or in the people with whom he serves. Markley, not a veteran, portrays two characters, one, Rick Brinklan, who joins the Marines and one, Dan Eaton, who joins the Army, differently. Each, within the range of possibilities offered to them and their peers in the fictional small town of New Canaan, embodies honor and good sense, and the military, whatever its shortcomings, is more generative of human commonweal than anything available back home.
Not perfect, mind you—Rick is killed in Iraq and Dan loses an eye in the process of committing a war-crime in Afghanistan—but better by far than the failed state and blighted social microcosm from which the two men use the military to escape. Then two planes hit the World Trade Center towers, one hit the Pentagon, and a final one dug a crater in a Pennsylvania field, and almost that same day, he felt a divergence occur between them. Bill observed the flag-waving, the brainless nationalism, the invocation of military might as a panacea for sorrow, and it felt to him like a bad movie, a gloss of convenient worship for shared bloodletting.
Rick got into it. Really into it…. Every city or town in the state had big gangrenous swaths that looked like New Canaan, the same cancer-patient-looking strip mall geography with brightly lit outposts hawking variations on usurious consumer credit. Helpless in the face of such exploitation, or clueless about its true nature, the dazed denizens of Midwest wastelands lack the wherewithal to save themselves.
In the mostly-white New Canaan, old-school black-white tension exists, but in almost diluted, benign form compared to the venomous hatred now directed toward non-Christian immigrants by young white men without education, their sputtering rage and impotence in the face of demographic change and diversity exacerbated by excessive drinking and drug use. Whether all of this is true or not, or rings true or not, probably depends on where you lie on the Red-Blue spectrum. By-and-large they are described as possessed by their own form of self-hatred, one generated by internalizing the idea that to be out of step with the New Canaan mainstream is an act of self-marginalization born not of superior intelligence but of character perversity equal to or greater than the irrationalism of the xenophobes.
They hate themselves, and thus are neither liked nor trusted by their more conservative peers, who find them deeply inauthentic and not credible:. What an important lesson for every young person to learn: If you defy the collective psychosis of nationalism, of imperial war, you will pay for it. And the people in your community, your home, who you thought knew and loved you, will be the ones to collect the debt.
In that space between deplorable provincial conservatives and enfeebled liberal exiles Markley situates Rick and Dan. If we ascribe a liberal politics to Markley, as do many of his Amazon reviewers, then one of the conundrums he tries to reconcile in Ohio is the irony that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as stupid and wasteful as they are, serve as venues for redemption of a modern America that is equally as stupid and has squandered its riches and its virtues.
An emerging truism of war-writing is that any minor character described with any love and attention-to-detail will soon be vanquished and vanished from the story, but be that as it may, such capsule portraits are often among the most memorable passages in the works that contain them. Greg Coyle, no matter how goofy he was, never got ripped, was always on point.
To the dismay of the whole company, within weeks of their deployment everyone was saying it. They landed in Iraq in , when the country was no joke, but that joke worked right through rocket attacks and EFPs. Decent, churchgoing women who had never seen soldiers cut loose. How hilariously stupid they could be. In his buzz, Dan found himself wishing to return to , to be back on patrol with his friends.
A red war novel and a blue one side-by-side on the shelves. The battle roster number was EAJ, and we were trying to think of who that was. It took us the better part of ten minutes to come up with a guy from Third Platoon whose last name started with the letter J. Red war books, in this dichotomy, unproblematically extoll fighting-and-killing prowess and patriotic fervor as virtues, while blue war books ambivalently brood about these qualities.
Blue books are marked by literary aspirations, while red books play for, and often receive, mass approval. We cleared houses like we normally did when these things happened. And with nothing to the west but a short field and the river, we turned east off the road and went about it. A blind retard was chained to a palm tree in front of the first house we came to. There were four rooms around the courtyard so we split off to see about each one and I kicked a door in and went into an unlit room. The room was empty except for a haji lying on the floor with his eyes closed.
He opened one eye and looked at me, stayed unmoved, closed the eye. So I had my mind made up to kick him in the face. I brought the kick as hard as I could, aiming center mass. But I stopped halfway to connecting. It was all I could do to stay on the one foot and not fall on my ass. The haji got up and stretched and he shuffled out of the room.
Afghanistan: A Stage Without a Play - Los Angeles Review of Books
I unfucked myself and went outside to see where the haji had gone. He was heading off into the fields, looking up into the sun. Nobody touched him. Breaking down binary distinctions is always possible and tempting, but that Van Reet is basically correct, there can be no doubt. Jimenez was a cherry.
He was one of the replacements who had come to the company after First Platoon lost the four guys killed out on Route Polk. It was unlucky. Sometimes the dead guy was really an asshole, or you could make the case that he was. Not so with Jimenez. For all intents and purposes, Jimenez was a saint. The thing is your average infantryman is no worse than your garden-variety sonofabitch. Yet Jimenez was a saint. The sergeants liked him for that. But he was so goddamn nice that he drove people crazy sometimes.
Dealt a queen-four off-suited, he was liable to call two preflop raises and hit a boat on the river. The last time I saw Jimenez was about eight hours before Haji killed him. And Castro told him to go see a medic and Jimenez did what he was told and when he came around looking for a medic I gave him a hard time. So, a little like American Sniper , which was ghost-written by a seasoned novelist, Cherry manages to convey authenticity despite all the evidence that it was highly stylized and worked-over by a young man with serious literary ambitions and a team of helpmates.
He went out with a fire team in the morning. The road was just a paved berm and it was easy to mine. And the Haj was watching them. He saw Jimenez stand on the spot he had mined. I heard Koljo talk about it. It was later in that same day. He was telling some joes what it had been like. But he was still awake and he knew what was happening. He was screaming. The fire team traded shots with two fucking murderers, but the murderers got away, north through a palm grove.
How War Made the State and the State Made Peace
Read Chapter 33, read Cherry entire, and judge for yourself. Comments: 9 Comments. Or is it about both? If so, what connects Iraq and heroin in the life and mind of its unnamed but clearly autobiographical first-person narrator? The second-half of the novel, in which the narrator describes his heroin addiction and the criminal capers he undertakes to finance it, refracted through his love for his fellow addict and soulmate Emily, seems thematically and tonally disconnected from the war-and-military sections. I came away from the novel thinking that military deployment mostly bored the narrator, and not much happened overseas that he connects to the verve of his drug-addicted, crime-ridden romance with Emily except that for a while it paid the post-war bills for love and debauchery:.
There was nothing better than to be young and on heroin. Emily and I were living together. The days were bright. And if you were getting G. Which was all you really wanted.
You could kill yourself real slow and feel like a million dollars. You could grow high-class weed in your basement and pay the rent like that. For the narrator, heroin addiction is the logical culmination of love of getting high. The great article or book connecting the two wars is there for the writing. Advance readers and reviewers have been lavish in their praise; the quote from Lea Carpenter above is restrained compared to its dust-jacket companions:.
Nico Walker may know more about these two subjects than When I first heard of him [Walker] and his autobiographical novel, I confess my reaction to it was not-so-gentle bemusement. Oh great, I thought. An Iraq-veteran-junkie-bank-robber novelist. We have truly jumped the shark in this genre. Blame our sensationalistic media culture, which often functions to seek out and reward the very worst people. I feared the rest of us, in the wake of his book, would now have to deal with its confirmation of a damaging stereotype about this generation of veterans: that we are no more than mindless thugs who, by virtue of our participation in a criminal war, are criminals at heart, if not by the letter of the law.
On top of that, it seemed to me a dizzying moral abdication that so many literary journalists and book critics had taken it upon themselves to celebrate work by a convicted violent criminal from an affluent background, in a cultural moment when any number of male authors and editors have been lately accused of inappropriate behavior, which may not rise to the level of criminal offense, but which is nevertheless deemed toxic enough to warrant the ruination of their careers.
Share Flipboard Email. Jackie Craven, Doctor of Arts in Writing, has over 20 years of experience writing about architecture and the arts. She is the author of two books on home decor and sustainable design and a collection of art-themed poetry. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields. At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,. O Jesus, make it stop! He spilled many human ears on the table. There is no other way to say this.
It came alive there. From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand, I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood…. In our way station of shadows rock apes tried to blow our cover, throwing stones at the sunset.
Chameleons crawled our spines, changing from day to night: green to gold, gold to black. But we waited till the moon touched metal Nothing but hurt left here. Nothing but bullets and pain Believe it when you see it. Believe it when a twelve-year-old rolls a grenade into the room. I was in my bed, around my bed America was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house. University of Massachusetts Press. Deutsch, Abigail. Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, — Gutman, Huck.
LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds. New York: Garland Publishing, Poets Against the War. Nation Books. First Edition. King, Rick, et.