Welcome to the Suck
Narrating the American Soldier's Experience in Iraq
Publication Year: 2011
Our collective memories of World War II and Vietnam have been shaped as much by memoirs, novels, and films as they have been by history books. In Welcome to the Suck, Stacey Peebles examines the growing body of contemporary war stories in prose, poetry, and film that speak to the American soldier's experience in the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War.
Stories about war always encompass ideas about initiation, masculinity, cross-cultural encounters, and trauma. Peebles shows us how these timeless themes find new expression among a generation of soldiers who have grown up in a time when it has been more acceptable than ever before to challenge cultural and societal norms, and who now have unprecedented and immediate access to the world away from the battlefield through new media and technology.
Two Gulf War memoirs by Anthony Swofford (Jarhead) and Joel Turnipseed (Baghdad Express) provide a portrait of soldiers living and fighting on the cusp of the major political and technological changes that would begin in earnest just a few years later. The Iraq War, a much longer conflict, has given rise to more and various representations. Peebles covers a blog by Colby Buzzell ("My War"), memoirs by Nathaniel Fick (One Bullet Away) and Kayla Williams (Love My Rifle More Than You); a collection of stories by John Crawford (The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell); poetry by Brian Turner (Here, Bullet); the documentary Alive Day Memories; and the feature films In the Valley of Elah and the winner of the 2010 Oscar for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, both written by the war correspondent Mark Boal.
Books and other media emerging from the conflicts in the Gulf have yet to receive the kind of serious attention that Vietnam War texts received during the 1980s and 1990s. With its thoughtful and timely analysis, Welcome to the Suck will provoke much discussion among those who wish to understand today's war literature and films and their place in the tradition of war representation more generally.
Published by: Cornell University Press
Title Page, Copyright
I owe a special thanks to David Mikics, who encouraged this project from its inception, read every chapter multiple times, and offered invaluable feedback. I am also grateful to Peter Potter for championing the idea for this book and providing kind and detailed guidance every step of the way....
Near the end of Jarhead, his 2003 memoir of the Persian Gulf War, Marine infantryman Anthony Swofford writes about celebrating with his company when they learn that the war is suddenly over. “The music plays throughout the day, Hendrix, the Stones, the Who, music from a different...
1. Lines of Sight: Watching War in Jarhead and My War: Killing Time in Iraq
War is the world’s second-oldest form of entertainment. From Achilles and Cúchulainn to Krishna and the Volsungs of Icelandic saga, our most enduring stories are about war and war heroes, and the post-Neolithic art found on every continent except Antarctica suggests our fascination with...
2. Making a Military Man: Iraq, Gender, and the Failure of the Masculine Collective
What makes a man? It’s an old question, but the critic Susan Jeffords frames it in a new way. What, she asks, does a man make? Jeffords has argued that during and after the Vietnam War, the power of the masculine collective, a community forged in war and represented extensively...
3. Consuming the Other: Blinding Absence in The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell and Here, Bullet
In the early nineteenth century, the military theorist Karl von Clausewitz famously called war the continuation of politics by other means. Other means, indeed. Whether one thinks of war as an extension of politics, business, natural human aggression, or any other motivating factor, war...
4. One of U.S.: Combat Trauma on Film in Alive Day Memories and In the Valley of Elah
The experience of war doesn’t always end after the soldier returns home. The life of a veteran is different both from the life of a soldier and from that of a civilian, although the social and political acknowledgement of that difference is by no means a given. The years during and after...
Many fi ms about the Vietnam War end in the same striking way—one character asks another to kill him or her. The request may be implicit or explicit, and the deaths occur differently, but in each case the killing provides a climax for the plot and a dramatic representation of the ambiguous...
Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011
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