Anthony Swofford may have written Jarhead in another era, but his account also departs from the flag waving 'Rambo' action and adventure style standard. Swofford offers us an entirely different perspective of war, one well worth reflecting on as we send off another 30,000 troops.
We have no real way of guessing which contemporary authors will survive the test of time and be placed on the reading lists of the future, but one good indication of your chances of obtaining legendary status is getting picked up by the esteemed faculty in the world of University academia. Chances are you have a few decades of readers to look forward to if these Literary aficionados catch on to your best qualities. Anthony Swofford is one of those authors. Stacey Peeples, University of North Carolina, and Geoffrey Wright, Stamford University, both wrote articles on teaching Jarhead in last month's edition of the PMLA (the English Department’s Bible) promising a renewed interest by scholars and students alike—and providing a real testament to Swofford’s great accomplishments in the realm of war literature.
I don’t have many signed copies of books mainly because when you work in the bookstore you facilitate the signing and you witness all that infectious enthusiasm oozing from the authors and the fans and it’s all so lovely—every moment a Kodak moment— [no really!]— all that love and exuberance for the art and form and greatness and mutual adoration for the mysteriously powerful world we call ‘literary,’ but at the end of the long night, after the lights fade and the folding chairs are all stacked in the corner, when the author is bleary eyed, and only the most steadfast volunteers and weariest staff remain, when it comes to this time—the time to ask for the autograph—you just feel like a real dolt. You know what I mean? How can you ask for one more term of endearment, one more authentic note from an already worn out, over used slogan?
So why did I ask Anthony Swofford? Well, it’s not every day you meet an ex-Marine number one, especially when you live in Santa Cruz. I think they have unfriendly signs posted at the county line or something, I’m not sure, but I do know a military man is as rare a sighting as a mountain lion around here. You know they exist, but they prefer to remain anonymous. Of course, I loved his books—that's a given. I think the main reason I asked is because Anthony Swofford and I had something important in common—no not the fact that both of our books topped the Bestseller Lists for months prompting an “International Sensation” media declaration, only Anthony holds this distinction. And no it wasn’t the fact that both of our books were made in to movies featuring A-list stars—Anthony again.
Okay, I’ll tell you. It was the year 1998 and Anthony Swofford and I were both Squaw Valley Community of Writer’s work waiver participants! Isn’t that exciting? Anthony reflected on this fact as I rung up his books in the store one night after his reading. He was even kind enough to say, “Oh, yah, I think I do remember you.”
Uh huh, right.
I remember. His job was to take out the garbage, which doesn't sound too exciting, but he said the chore did lead to a close encounter with a black bear. "That was fun," he said. My job was to distribute supplies like toilet paper and soap, which led to encounters with bathrooms. "Not so fun," I told him. "Yah," he agreed.
There never seems like an appropriate time to ask, so I seized this awkward moment to segue into the familiar question: By the way, can I get you to sign my book for me?
I still felt like a dolt, but it was worth it. I will forever cherish my Anthony Swofford signed copy of Jarhead.