I read Eat the Apple by Matt Young in what I think was three sittings. Although it’s a pretty disturbing book, it’s a fast read. It’s Young’s memoir about his three deployments to Iraq between 2006 and 2009 (so yes, a downer for sure). It definitely doesn’t convince you that the Iraq War was a great use of anyone’s life.

I found it slightly annoying that the book is unconventional in its structure, not exactly Gertrude Stein, but definitely a mix of different types of storytelling, not exactly linear, sometimes told in second person, there is one long hand drawn cartoon as well as several other cartoons (I actually really enjoyed the cartoons, the style is sort of XKCDish and the annotations are hilarious). But I understand that for Young, a straightforward I woke up, I did this, I did that, I came home, wouldn’t have conveyed the story of his deployments.

No one will enjoy this book, the topic precludes that I think, but I would still recommend it to those who understand what they’re in for. I am actually most fascinated by what’s not here — how did a guy with a drinking problem, PTSD, issues about masculinity, consistently cheating on his fiancé, etc. end up a stable writer who teaches writing, married to someone he loves? How did the person described in this memoir, who is very admittedly, not a great person put through a horrible ordeal for unclear reasons come out on the other side of this? Towards the end of the book there is a conversation between “Past Me” and “Me” which recognizes the chasm that exists between 18 year old Young and present day Young — but doesn’t really explain how he got from A to B.

For the most part instead, you get the story of Young enlisting, his training, and the three deployments as well as the time between when he was basically just continuing to self-destruct. Which, is also important, but left me very curious about how he transitioned from the person he was from 18-21 and who he is now, able to reflect back on these experience and contextualize them?

I marked a chapter called “Rapid” about killing rapid dogs where Young begins almost every sentence with “It’s important” to sort of demonstrate the tone of the book:

It’s important to remember that ‘dog’ is a loose term. It’s important to remember that we can say they probably most likely without much of a doubt and with the utmost confidence all have rabies or worms or congenital diseases or are overpopulated or are suffering from canine depression or have bitten a village child or whatever. It’s important to remember our boredom and lack of sleep and anger and sadness and youth and misunderstanding and loneliness and hate. It’s important to remember that we don’t want to, not really, not deep down. It’s important to remember that we’re just following order. It’s important to remember the Nazis and the Nuremburg Defense.

If anything, this book will convince you that we sent a bunch of very young men to the Middle East who didn’t have much of a sense of themselves, without having much of a plan and that for many people, this brought out the stupidest and worst parts of themselves (the amount of porn and masturbation mentioned in this book alone kind of depresses me).

At the same time, the book certainly doesn’t put marines down — another chapter, “Brothers,” discusses the way the men rallied around a fellow marine when he admitted to them he was gay after enduring all the ways that they have been just generally insulting gay men constantly in their conversations — “We think about this and we understand that he has been cast further than us, that he has been struggling and sinking in the desert sands for years alone and it is because of us. We enfold him and defend him and love him like brothers.”

Currently reading: Still Spineless, and now also more Alexander McCall Smith (THINGS WERE GETTING HEAVY UP IN HERE OKAY! Do you have a favorite author you turn to when you need an escape book instead of a “I learned something” book?)