Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesday: The Wax Bullet War by Sean Davis

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

When the guns fall silent, the air fills with the sound of stories.  Veterans returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan are, each in their own way, trying to make sense of an often-nonsensical duet of wars.  Many will hold their silence, some will try to work it out in therapy or conversations with loved ones, and a few will find their path through storytelling.  Sean Davis is one soldier who searches for healing through the medicine of narrative.  His memoir, The Wax Bullet War, tells of how he found a new sense of purpose in the Global War on Terror.  The day after 9/11, Davis--who'd just left the Army 18 months earlier--walked into a National Guard recruiting office and reenlisted.  But, as the book's jacket copy tells us, “what he finds in Iraq is nothing like what he expected.  He discovers the oddities of a pop-up America in a hostile desert wasteland and is confronted with more questions and contradictions than answers.”  I haven't had the chance to read The Wax Bullet War beyond the first couple of pages; but what I found there, along with what's presented in the four-minute trailer, convinces me this will be an unforgettable reading experience.  Here, for instance, is the opening paragraph:
The morning Simon Scott was killed he sat in the back of our Humvee with his elbows on his knees and told me his theory on life. He said he'd figured it all out. Everything we take in or put out goes through a hole. It didn't matter if a person fought in a war, drank himself to death, chased girls, or risked his life to be a hero; every action was made to fill one hole or another. We laughed and threw rocks at stray dogs while waiting in the Iraqi heat for our final combat mission, the mission that would take his life and send me home on a stretcher, bone-broke, bruised, and soul-wrecked. I skipped right over what he was trying to tell me that day and didn't think about it for a couple months after the ambush, but now I think about it all the time. When I remember each decision I made leading up to that one afternoon, I think about the hole I was trying to fill.
Powerful stuff there in those sentences--and that's just the first page.  The trailer is little more than a slide show of photos from Davis' tour of duty and a series of blurbs from fellow writers laid over a haunting song playing in the background.  It's nothing flashy, but it draws us in nonetheless.  Then, near the end of the video, Davis reads a harrowing scene from the book in which his conversation with a fellow soldier about the Crusades, Pulp Fiction and Baroque art is interrupted by a mortar landing near them: “A small patch of earth shattered like glass and shot rocks, shrapnel and debris in all directions.”  Davis had been in the midst of shaving and even as he stands there with his face half-covered in lather, he hears the approach of another mortar round, whistling and Dopplering through the air.  “I couldn't process the fact that intelligent human beings were attempting to kill me.”  To many Americans, war is something that happens elsewhere to other people.  Perhaps The Wax Bullet War can serve as a tour guide to that foreign country, helping us open our eyes to at least one warrior's reality.

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