The publication of Jarhead launched a new career for Anthony Swofford, earning him accolades for its gritty and unexpected portraits of the soldiers who fought in the Gulf War. It spawned a Hollywood movie. It made Swofford famous and wealthy. It also nearly killed him.
Now with the same unremitting intensity he brought to his first memoir, Swofford describes his search for identity, meaning and a reconciliation with his dying father in the years after he returned from serving as a sniper in the Marines. Adjusting to life after war, he watched his older brother succumb to cancer and his first marriage crumble, leading him to pursue an excessive lifestyle in Manhattan that brought him to the brink of collapse. Consumed by drugs, drinking, expensive cars and women, Swofford lost almost everything and everyone that mattered to him.
When a son is in trouble he hopes to turn to his greatest source of wisdom and support: his father. But Swofford and his father didn't exactly have that kind of relationship. The key, he realised, was to confront the man - a philandering, once hard-drinking, now terminally ill Vietnam vet he had struggled hard to understand and even harder to love. The two stubborn, strong-willed war vets embarked on a series of RV trips that quickly became a kind of reckoning in which Swofford took his father to task for a lifetime of infidelities and abuse. For many years Swofford had considered combat the decisive test of a man's greatness. With the understanding that came from these trips and the fateful encounter that took him to a like-minded woman named Christa, Swofford began to understand that becoming a father himself might be the ultimate measure of his life.
Elegantly weaving his family's past with his own present - nights of excess and sexual conquest, visits with injured war veterans and a near-fatal car crash - Swofford casts a courageous, insistent eye on both his father and himself in order to make sense of what his military service meant and to decide, after nearly ending it, what his life can and should become as a man, a veteran and a father.
Anthony Swofford has given us a complex, unflinching, loving, and sometimes harrowing memoir. Candid as a locomotive, written with fury and grace, this book has a dangerous, achingly desperate personality of its own. I was shaken and moved. - Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
Swofford has done an amazing job showing how war plays out in peoples' lives for years after they come home. I read this book with the eagerness one usually reserves for fiction. It is a tremendous look into one man's attempt to replace war with life. - Sebastian Junger, author of War
Following Swofford's struggle to come to terms with a difficult father and his experience of war- and the two are intertwined - we soon realise that this writer is making easier our struggles against leading a parent's life instead of our own. He blazes a trail for all of us with honesty and skill, gem after gem. Swofford is quite simply the master of the metaphor. The chapter describing his visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital will break your heart and it should. - Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War and What it is Like To Go To War
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. - New York Times
A brutally honest memoir...gut-wrenching frontline reportage. - Entertainment Weekly, on Jarhead