All of the things in the world I wanted to be

There’s a great paragraph in Jarhead, the Gulf War memoir written by Anthony Swofford. There are a lot of them, actually, but this is the one I’d like to share with you:

“Like most good and great marines, I hated the Corps. I hated being a marine because more than all of the things in the world I wanted to be – smart, famous, sexy, oversexed, drunk, fucked, high, alone, famous, smart, known, understood, loved, forgiven, oversexed, drunk, high, smart, sexy – more than all of those things, I was a marine. A jarhead. A grunt.”

I’m not a marine, and it would be disingenuous of me to say I can identify with the experience of being a marine. But there’s something in that paragraph that rings true for anyone who ever wished they could be someone other than who they are, or that their life could be something different than what they know it is. And really, who can say they’ve never felt like that?

It’s no wonder that Martin Amis called Jarhead “a display of genuine talent.” It’s saturated with the same sharp, resiliently cynical worldview that Amis often brings to his own work. It’s also a very candid look at the experience of a grunt on the ground, and it’s well worth a read.

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