Wednesday,
April 23

 
CULTURE

The killing football fields of home


In memory of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle:

“It is so hard becoming a civilian," Kyle said. "When you are in the military, everything you do is for the greater good. And as a civilian, everything you do is for your own good.

“When you’re in the military, you are facing life and death every day. And then you come home and hear people who are unhappy about the little things. And you think, are you kidding me? Two weeks ago, I was shot. And this is your problem. … They train us how to become warriors, but then they don’t teach us and train us how to become businessmen.”

– Dallas Morning News, Feb. 3, 2013

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I am late getting to the party on Ben Fountain’s acclaimed, relentless novel that is not a war novel but a combattere interruptus about what happens to soldiers when they return home. And then have to go back. And maybe not come home. I don’t actually know if that’s a literary (or Latin) term, any more than I know why Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk didn’t win the National Book Award. I’ll let the writing speak for itself, after these digressions.

First, a confession. When I started reading, I was immediately taken with how much the language of young warriors rang true and has remained so constant over so many conflicts. Direct and no-bullshit, it is chiefly concerned, in no special order, with sex, chow, bitching, getting wasted, dumbasses, boredom, loneliness, and not getting killed. In this complex military world both truncated and expansive, terrible things become comic. The mundane leads to transcendence. Even vulgarity is destroyed and reborn holy. Consider the word “fuck.” Among troops, it assumes any syntactic form, always with complete precision. You could make whole sentences out of fuck. Fuck knows I’ve fucking heard them. I thought, this fucking guy fucking knows his shit. When the fuck did he serve?


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