Monday, November 14, 2022

Nine books that take aim at the myth of the American hero

Brian O’Hare is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former U.S. Marine Corps officer. Currently, he’s an award-winning writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in War, Literature and the Arts, Santa Fe Writers Project, and Hobart, and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. He was recently named a Writing Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

O’Hare's new story collection is Surrender.

At Electric Lit he tagged nine books that serve as guideposts on his quest to learn "why my father raised me to be a Marine. Why, after his profound trauma—the pain, the flashbacks, and finally, the humiliating exit—he deemed I share the same experiences." One title on the list:
Fobbit by David Abrams

In my limited experience, war is more uh-oh than glorious—Marines falling asleep and rolling trucks, shooting one another accidentally (mostly) and blowing themselves up with their own hand grenades; it’s an “industrial accident” on a grand scale. Or, war can be absurd—stealing desert uniforms by the truck-load, so your battalion returns home looking like “warriors,” or getting drunk on a can of warm Coca-Cola and contraband bourbon and then beating the shit outta each other in an abandoned bunker for fun. (And thinking it’s fun.) As portrayed in classics such as Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse-Five or Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk, war is inherently violent and absurd—like life itself, only more so. David Abrams captures this reality, too, in his satire about Forward Operating Base (or FOB; one who inhabits a FOB is a “Fobbit”) Triumph in Iraq. It’s a funny book about an unfunny subject. Dark humor weaves through the story of the good soldiers bravely manning the desks of freedom, like toxic smoke from a burn pit. Because not all war stories are about combat and brave deeds. Sometimes, the most dangerous mission is daring to be first in line for Friday night all-you-can-eat seafood. You just don’t get a medal for it.
Read about another entry on the list.

Fobbit is among Derek Miller's top ten books about the Iraq war, Jenny Shank's five unforgettable fictional characters with dirty jobs, Jesse Goolsby's top fifteen books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Joel Cunningham's seven sharpest modern satires.

The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.

--Marshal Zeringue