Eat the Apple: A Memoir

Matt Young. Bloomsbury, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63286-950-0
In this bold memoir, ex-Marine Young examines how war transformed him from a confused teenager into a dangerous and damaged man. Fresh from high school and with no direction, Young walked into a Marine recruitment center in 2005 and sealed his fate. Soon he was suffering the indignities of basic training before being deployed to “the sandbox” in Iraq, where he sweated, masturbated, shot stray dogs, and watched friends get blown up. Despite the constant misery and suffocating discipline, Young redeployed twice more and even volunteered for Iraq on his last tour. Brief stints in the U.S. that blurred away into drunken violence and infidelity made war seem far safer to Young than civilian life. Eschewing first-person memoir conventions, Young, now a creative-writing professor at Centralia College, presents his experiences through a broad range of narrative approaches—second person, third person, first-person plural, screenplay, crude drawings, invented dialogue between various selves, etc. There’s real risk of trivializing the material, but Young matches his stylistic daring with raw honesty, humor, and pathos. Comparisons to Michael Herr’s Dispatches, about the Vietnam War, are apt, but where Herr searched for thrills and headlines as a journalist, Young writes from a grunt’s perspective that has changed little since Roman legionnaires yawned through night watch on Hadrian’s Wall: endless tedium interrupted by moments of terror and hilarity, all under a strict regime of blind obedience and foolish machismo. (Feb. 2018)

Correction: An earlier version of this review stated the authore reenlisted twice. In fact, he redeployed twice.

Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 02/27/2018
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