Anthony Swafford, whose best-selling memoir, "Jarhead," chronicled his experience as a Marine sniper in the first Gulf War, has just released a new memoir, this time centered around addiction. According to STLToday.com, "Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails," describes the next decade in the author's life where he squandered his considerable "Jarhead" fortune on cocaine, alcohol, and women.
The title reminds us of the well-known phrase, "institutions, jails, and death," which is often used to remind us of the outcomes of addiction. As the book progresses, Swafford attempts sobriety, as he also tests his unchartered waters of monogamy and fatherhood. Swafford writes, "It's so much easier to do drugs than think about my old life, the old good life I ruined. I do drugs with the girls all night and read Styron aloud…I wonder if Styron would get a kick out of this, a writer in bed with a 20-year-old high on cocaine."
One book reviewer finds Swafford's outlook to be immature, comparing the book to a series of frat house escapades, and he also declares the author's description of various sexual encounters to be "tiresome."
Swafford's father was a physically abusive alcoholic, and this relationship becomes a central part of the novel. Swafford said, "Maybe it sounds strange to compare a father to a lover, but it isn't really…To stomach this hate any longer just might kill me. But parts of me loved the hate." One book reviewer notes that Swafford could have benefited greatly from Al-Anon much earlier in his life.
Despite the criticism of the book, there are a number of poignant scenes, with the intensity of his first novel, "Jarhead." He writes of racing expensive cars while drunk, totaling a BMW. He also visits the Bethesda naval Hospital, filled with "overwhelmingly positive" wounded troops, which conflicts violently with his own self-pity. The evidence that Swafford's experience in the Gulf War still haunts him.
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Image courtesy of Anthony Swafford.
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