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The Book We're Talking About: 'Hotels, Hospitals and Jails: A Memoir' By Anthony Swofford

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“Hotels, Hospitals and Jails: A Memoir” By Anthony Swofford
Twelve Books, $26.99
Published June 5th

What is it?
“Jarhead” author Swofford shares brutally honest stories about his family, random sex, hard drinking and his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to cope with life and post-traumatic stress.

Why are we talking about it?
Swofford is an often-gripping narrator, at his best both angry and charismatic without apology. Though at times it feels like therapy on paper, it’s never less than readable. The chapter about visiting a veterans’ hospital has rightly been singled out as a remarkable piece of writing.

Who wrote it?
Anthony Swofford was born on an air force base to a Vietnam vet. He joined the marines and fought in the Gulf War in 1990-1. His first book, “Jarhead,” was a memoir of his time in the army that came out in 2003, and was turned into a movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. This is his third book.

Who will read it?
Former soldiers, and the families of former soldiers. Fans of “Jarhead.” Mostly meg ages 18-40 – it’s a very masculine read.

What do the reviews say?
Buffalo News: “Swofford uses his literary talent, and he has plenty of it, to get even for a childhood he remembers as woeful.”


Kirkus Reviews:
“The author’s voice and energy are compelling, but his hot, volcanic anger saturates the narrative, and the sheer self-indulgence and lack of filter make the book oscillate from wildly engaging to off-putting.”

Publishers Weekly: “It’s the journalism rather than the memoir that makes this book worth reading.”

Impress your friends
Swofford’s first job after leaving the Marines was as a bank teller – but he quit after a few months when he was robbed at gunpoint.

Opening line
“There are days I still fantasize about combat, long nights when I wish I had rejoined the Marines as an infantry officer after September 11 and gone back over and got some war to score that kill I’d missed the first time.”

Notable passage
“Jeff’s son is at my side. He’s a cute little five-year-od boy and he looks just like my brother. He has no idea that all these people are here to say goodbye to his father forever. He has no idea what forever means. He knows that for some reason his father is in the metal box at the front of this room. He knows that the tie around his neck is constricting and that the suit pants are scratchy and that he had to take a bath early this morning. He knows that his mother and his grandmothers and his aunts and uncles and all the adults in his life are crying. Because my father has refused to attend Jeff’s funeral I am the only adult Swofford male in our line. I lead the death procession, little Christian’s hand in mine.”


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