Sunday, July 22, 2012

Five best books on war by authors who served

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; his memoir Jarhead was a major New York Times bestseller, and the basis for the movie of the same name.

Swofford's new book is Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails.

One of his five best books about war, written by authors who served, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Tunnel
by William Gass (1995)

William Gass, who served in the Navy during World War II, is by training a philosopher of language—also a great teacher whose books of criticism have guided my reading for two decades. When his novel "The Tunnel" finally landed after nearly 30 years of labor, I dived right in. It's a disturbing and beautiful tale narrated by a historian, William Frederick Kohler, who has just finished his masterwork, "Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany"—it just needs an introduction. But when Kohler sits down in his basement to write the introduction, he instead finds himself penning a massive and intricate biographical novel—the one in our hands. Kohler tells us that he is also digging a tunnel out of the basement. "My tunnel shall have a body of simple soilage like the rest of us. Like the rest of us it will have a spirit which is certainly no thing, too, for its hollow bore is no more palpable than spirit is, than consciousness." "The Tunnel" is the 20th century made into personal history—a book of hate but also one of love, especially a love of language.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue