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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly honest and disturbing.
I have just finished reading Jarhead. I was a bit disappointed, as I imagine many others would be, with the lack of "action" in this book. However, Swofford has a deeper purpose than recounting a first hand account of his experience in war, and that seems to be an exploration of what it means to be a soldier in this world of modern warfare.
The first three quarters...
Published on 17 Mar. 2006 by Mr. S. Low

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Creative writing class assignment - join Marines
This has to be one of the most stupendously overrated books of recent times. Martin Amis is going soft in his late middle age if he thinks this is 'a work of genuine talent'. Er, no isn't. Just because the author admires Michael Herr, and actually wants to BE Michael Herr, doesn't mean he's capable of pulling off a similar level of insight and technical virtuosity...
Published on 25 Aug. 2010 by i'msogreen


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly honest and disturbing., 17 Mar. 2006
By 
Mr. S. Low (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
I have just finished reading Jarhead. I was a bit disappointed, as I imagine many others would be, with the lack of "action" in this book. However, Swofford has a deeper purpose than recounting a first hand account of his experience in war, and that seems to be an exploration of what it means to be a soldier in this world of modern warfare.
The first three quarters of the book are full of reminiscences. As a reader you begin to question; "when is the action going to start?" The waiting is frustrating. In the same way that you bought a book about war expecting action, Swofford was sent to Saudi Arabia to fight a war; and expected action. The book wouldn't be what it is without the build up to the final action. The action, the "war", that is finally described is over very quickly.
I found the last 50 pages of the book refreshingly honest and disturbing. Swofford is honest about the hollwness he feels after serving. "You consider yourself less of a marine and even less of a man for not having killed while in combat". The years of training, the months of waiting....all must have seemed wothless at the end.
What is disturbing is the sense of how war can effect the mind.
Read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastatingly topical…, 20 April 2003
Swofford’s memoirs are dark, brutal and gripping. They read neither as a recruiting card for the USMC or glorious tales of battle, rather the story of young enthusiastic men spat out the other side of conflict and the Marines all the more cynical from their experiences. Riddled with dark humour and tempered with the stark realties of warfare, I guarantee you will not debate any conflict quite as flippantly after reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Telling how it really is (for once), 12 Feb. 2004
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The initial advert for this book highlighted that here at last was a book written by a US marine who could string more than two sentences together. Do not be put off by such badging of an intriguing inside story of a willing entrant to the US army's infantry forces who came from a military family, progressed to the sniper units which are the Marine's elite forces and then participated in the first and brief Gulf War.
What this book captures so convincingly is the sheer tedium of military life and the war for the footsoldiers involved rather than the Hollywood images that distort what really happens. In its early stages on early training etc the book is like the movie Full Metal Jacket in words, with the sheer brutality and discipline enforced to turn green recruits into soldiers on autopilot when required but often unable to turn that skill off, especially when getting into fights on leave or after leaving the forces.
Where this book neatly twists the normal soldier's tale and in so doing exceeds one expectations is how it communicates the growing disillusionment of the writer as time passes. Whether it is getting screwed over what the recruiting sergeant told him versus what military life is really like and the actual Gulf War where apart from one brilliantly described secret surveillance mission, the prior time spent in the desert preparing and the complete absence of using his sniper skills during the fighting, blow away the action image conveyed by the media at the time.
One suspects not too many comparable books of such quality will emanate from the more recent and longer second Gulf War
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My opinion, 27 Jun. 2003
A gloves-off recounting of one Marine's journey from recruit to veteran. Swofford was an intelligent, bookreading Marine, unlike so many of the simple fighters around him. By his own account, he hated what the Corps made him, yet admits that his post-service life entailed in part a slippage from the keen edge the Corps honed him to.
The narrative flow is all chopped up into flash-forwards, flash-backs, and whatnot. This is completely unnecessary, as Swofford's story is compelling enough to be told straight. Maybe the editors insisted on shuffling the story, in order to keep the attention of video-impaired Gen-X readers.
Memoirs by bitter ex-soldiers are nothing new, not even in America. What makes this more than a big Bronx cheer at the military is Swofford's evident intelligence and powers of observation--sniper skills that just happened to translate into book-writing talent. A Marine who reads Nietzsche in a bar and The Iliad in the desert? We're lucky he survived. And the fact that he thinks the war was all a put-up job, all about oil, is no barrier to granting him a hearing. (I doubt that he runs everywhere in his home town of Portland.)
Since the book is a jumble of vignettes, it's no sin to pick out the best ones. Years after being discharged, he goes on a bender with a former comrade. They drink and run and sing cadence and slap each other around, drunkenly angry at each other "for changing, for slipping". He gets into an argument with some German tourists about Desert Storm not being a "real" war. He answers that the significance of the war won't be known for years, and that he underwent hardship, uglines, and terror and saw death, just like every other frontline soldier in any war. He idly threatens a comrade with death, at sadistic length, for getting Swofford in trouble. In the war itself, he happens onto a bombed out Iraqi encampment, and joins the dead Iraqi soldiers around their campfire for a few moments, soaking in the ghastly impressions.
The actual battle scenes are very brief and seemingly inconsequential--if you're only reading about it. Swofford indeed knew the terror of war, but his war was over so quickly that he never underwent the numbing acclimation to the terror, reported by soldier-memoirists in other wars. He never even fired his weapon in combat, his only chance being spiked by glory-hound commanders, he says.
This is a good book to read together with another memoir by another Marine from another war: E. B. Sledge's _With the Old Breed_, about a Marine rifleman's war on Peleliu and Okinawa. The similarities and contrasts between these two remarkable men are as thought-provoking as their books are separately.
Swofford deserves thanks for his service, and for his sacrifice--because losing faith is a sacrifice.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Soldier Remembered, 14 April 2003
Once a member of the U.S Marines Surveillance and Target Acquisition Platoon, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, Anthony Swofford studies himself with the same intensity and relentlessness as he would have a potential target. Jarhead is an historical from the heart, through the scope account of not only his involvement in the 1991 Gulf War, but of the 20 year old Scout/Sniper he was. The chronicle is his attempt to explain himself and his part in the conflict by examining the mind, surrounding events and history of this young man in the most intense and compelling of styles.
This unrelenting, intimate and painfully truthful memoir spans the time and space of Swofford’s life. There is no hesitation, nothing held sacred or in reserve as he draws from experiences both pre and post war, analysing and dissecting the man he was and the man he is by describing in vivid prose the history of “Swoff”. Locations span the globe from bars to barracks, with stories comedic to deeply upsetting – many memories long buried unearthed that are instrumental in the enlightenment of both himself and the reader as to what it is to be a modern day warrior in action.
The language used in Jarhead is poetic. There are no sonnets and rhymes – rather the sighing reflective melancholy is beautifully illustrated by a barrage of some of the most creative strings of expletives imaginable. Swofford occasionally takes a back seat in telling tales, allowing events to speak for themselves and often with these events come a mixture of inspired profanity coupled with a vocabulary more extensive and intelligent than is commonplace in the war memoir genre. The language used creates a clear voice. A voice which enables the reader to paint a vivid mental picture of both image and sound.
Whether or not the reader is familiar with modern warfare - especially the tactics, training and weapons used in sniping and counter-sniping - it is easily perceived that the author understood his discipline and was highly skilled. Small details throughout, intentional or otherwise, point to the fact that the mind of a sniper may be very different from that of an infantryman. Possibly the mentality of a sniper or a person with the potential to be a sniper is the reason this book exists. Without detached sensitivity and a clear picture at distance (in this case time) there could be no end result.
The first thing I thought when I put this book down was how much it reminded me of Guy Sajer’s Forgotten Soldier. Perhaps not in any context other than the fact that both have had a lasting impression on me. This is not another sensationalised account of one man’s experiences during the Gulf War of ‘91, but rather an intense and audible regurgitation of personal events and feelings which attempt to explain who Anthony Swofford was at that time, who Anthony Swofford is today and a reconciliation between the two. This glorifies nothing. War memoirs will never be the same.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 8 Dec. 2003
In order to enjoy this book, you have to understand that Anthony Swoffords book will put a partially negative light on the U.S. Marines. The U.S. Marines are portrayed as unorganized and largely populated with very young people still acting like a bunch of teenagers, but now with guns. It also paints the picture, that the U.S. Marines are corrupted by being exposed to daily scenes of mayhem and death. If this is too much for you to swallow, then do not read this book. If you are open towards listening to Anthony Swoffords experiences, then this is a strong portrayal of a young man in war. Anthony contains a human side, but is not immune to being corrupted from daily exposure to human misery. His heart does grow cold on occassion, just as he has some very human moments in contact with local bedouins. Good and evil does exists side by side inside most of us, and Anthony Swofford is not afraid to let both shine through in this selfportrayal. This book is occassionally so disturbing, that I put it down halfway through just to rush through a light paperback, before I went to the worthwhile task of finishing the book. oh yeah; one last thing: This is not an action-book. if you just want to read "cool" stories about heroics in war (i.e. a literary Rambo-movie), then seek out Chris Ryan, because in that case, this is definitively not your book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and thought provoking, 19 July 2006
By 
M. Rawson (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
Firstly, I'd agree wholeheartedly with everything "caffreysisgoodforyou" said - I could have written that review myself.

My own little twist on the review is this. If I were a parent of a teenager who said he was intending to join the armed forces, I would hand him a copy of this book and tell him to read it before making his mind up. And possibly The Forgotten Soldier too. If that didn't change his mind then at least I would feel comfortable that I had done my bit. It's that good.

Anthony Swofford is clearly far more than a "jarhead" (as he keeps referring to himself). A very intelligent man with a real talent for writing.

I only gave this 4 stars because I was expecting something different to what I got, as I suspect many other buyers have. If I could have given it 4.5 then I would have! However, this is an excellent account of what war can do to you as an individual and thereby deserves to be read by all and sundry.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great modern day solider's memoirs, 4 Sept. 2006
By 
I. Overend (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
I really loved this book as it's a fascinating insight into the life of the modern day US soldier. Reading all about the drills Swofford's unit do and the excercises they HAVE to do, to keep themselves from being bored - you can understand their desire to get stuck into the war and actually fire their gun, or DO SOMETHING - which, of course, they never do. Swofford appears to be a down to earth guy as this is a really straight-talking account of his time in the Gulf War and might not be the easiest of read's for the American military. It's nowhere near as haunting or as vivid as Albert French's account of the Vietnam war -called 'Patches of Fire' - (a simply unforgettable book) but Jarhead will keep you engrossed to the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, very poignant, 9 July 2007
By 
Andrew Tague (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
An extroidinary piece of work highliting the mental battles that a US marine went through during the Gulf War. Very graphic, but necessarirly so. A fantastic read for anyone looking for an insight into a soldiers mind during war
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and thought provoking read, 14 May 2009
By 
C. A. Brown (UK, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
I have just finished this book and found it an interesting and thought provoking read. As most of the reviews here go on to explain the book is more about the thoughts of the writer and is a completely open narrative of his fears and insecurities. The war itself is not the main part of the story, more it is cumulation of his life as a soldier, all the years and months of being trained to be a tiny part in a conflict.
This book does a good job of removing the fake gloss that is often put on being a soldier and I would recommend reading this book. While it is definitely no Catch-22 (regardless of the quote on the back) it is a good book, that is refreshing in its honesty.
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Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War
Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War by Anthony Swofford (Paperback - 3 Jan. 2006)
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