Dust to Dust: A Memoir
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Dust to Dust: A Memoir

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  207 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Tim O’Brien meets Annie Dillard in this remarkable memoir by debut author Benjamin Busch. Much more than a war memoir, Dust to Dust brilliantly explores the passage through a lifetime—a moving meditation on life and death, the adventures of childhood and revelations of adulthood. Seemingly ordinary things take on a breathtaking radiance when examined by this decorated Mari...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Ecco (first published February 21st 2012)
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"I knew very early that I was a solitary being. I longed for the elemental". That is how the prologue to this book begins. Two pages into this memoir, I was entranced. Busch has a style of writing that thrills me in a way that I cannot explain--baldly honest, clear eyed and bursting with the visual and tactile as well as profound emotion with a deep seated philosophy a constant undercurrent to the prose. He tells his story through the elements that have made the most impressions on him throughou...more
Timothy Bazzett
Benjamin Busch's memoir, DUST TO DUST, is a piece of work that is at once puzzling and moving. Puzzling because I wondered how a Vassar graduate who had majored in studio art could seem so easily conversant about things like soil and stone, metal and water, ash and bone - things one would normally associate with earth sciences, geology or archaeology. And moving because, by using these elements as primary symbols and vehicles for telling his life story, he touches too on the pain of extended fam...more
Katey Schultz
I spent the better part of 3 years reading nonfiction books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to research for my own book (which is fictional) about war. But I also teach and love memoir, so I make a point to keep up with highly praised work by new American authors. Benjamin Busch's memoir Dust to Dust was one of the best reads for me last year, on so many levels. As a war writer, it opened up the quieter aspects of war that I had not yet pondered. As memoir instructor, it helped m...more
'Attrition is the mission.'

There are memoirs and there a Memoirs - usually those relating life experiences come toward the end of life, providing a sage exploration of what has made existence of the reporter on the planet unique, just before finally closing the eyes in a terminal sleep. Some are written as confessions or as leaving clues for the obituary writer whose concern it is to sum up a life soon completely spent.

Benjamin Busch in DUST TO DUST writes more about life as it is currently mold...more
A skillfully-written memoir by a Marine combat veteran who describes himself as a "solitary being." The author has organized his memoirs around themes reflecting substances in the natural environment such as soil, stone, arms, blood, and ash. An underlying theme of this book, in accordance with its Biblical title, is that men and all the objects they create eventually age, die, scatter, turn to fragments, and are forgotten. This underlying theme recurs in sharp contract to the author's ostensibl...more
I finally had to give up on this one after struggling through about three-quarters of the book. The concept for the book is so interesting, and it's author has led such a rich and fascinating life, that I anticipated great things from this title. But there was something about the prose--the flat, repetitive, dead tone to it--that I just couldn't take anymore.

I liked meeting Benjamin Busch very much, and it was great to hear him read (short excerpts of) his work. In the end, though, I found the...more
Lexie Graham
This memoir is not chronological or linear but flows through the author's life in a series of elemental chapters - water, wood, bone, blood, ash. Each chapter circles through his life with reminiscences of youth, soldier, family, love and loss, traveling with ease from the rivers of his rural childhood to rivers of Iraq, from the ash of a fire during Marine training to the ashes of his parents. A beautifully written work from this author, actor, Marine, artist, son and parent.
Whoever writes back cover blurbs should be held to a higher accountability. Promising a cross between Tim O'Brien and Annie Dillard is, admittedly, a tall order. But if you're going to plop down those names, you'd better deliver.
Unfortunately, Mr. Busch didn't.
Clearly he's a thinking, observational man-- but those observations couldn't quite find their way from the stilted prose and off the page into my soul.
I always feel a little bad panning a book (knowing the work which goes into it), but I'm...more
This memoir is one of the most beuatifully-written books I've read in a long time. It must be in the genes, since the author's late father was also an accomplished scribe. Busch is first and foremost an observer and his ruminations on ordinary things is extraordinary. Have I used up all the superlatives yet? Read it, and you'll come up with more.
Steven Gilbert
It could be because we're of the same generation and share similar stories of youth and growing up, or it could be our love and respect for nature, or experience with war, or the pain of losing a parent, but whatever the reason, I connected with this well-crafted memoir in a way that only something good can do.
Wayne Johnson
Son of a novelist, well know actor, Iraq combat vet. Spare, beautiful prose I savored. Every page had me transfixed. Wonderful memoir.
Picked up this book because the author was coming to my local library for a reading. However, due to a schedule conflict, I wasn’t ultimately able to attend the reading. I was excited that this was a local Michigan author, plus a Marine and actor to boot!

While there was nothing exactly wrong with the book, there also wasn’t anything that grabbed me or inspired me. I had trouble connecting with the author. Perhaps it was because his writing was poetically vague in parts. Perhaps it was because I...more
Adrienne Rush
I found this book to be profoundly moving and a remarkably unique memoir, quite different from anything else in the genre I’ve read before. It is not one chronological or linear narrative, spanning Busch’s life thus far in a straightforward arc. Instead, being the “elemental” person that he introduces himself as in the prologue, Busch fashions each chapter around a different element: wood, bone, stone, blood, metal, water, dust, and more. Each chapter then takes the shape of an ellipse of sorts—...more
I'm not sure if this is a five-star book, or if I read it at the right moment in my life, but the format, the content and the prose continue to resonate with me.

This memoir is written by a former U.S. Marine Corps officer (who later became an actor, filmmaker and writer) who divides the book into sections such as "Arms," "Wood," "Metal," "Water," and the like, filling the chapters with memories from childhood, from tours of duty, from the current day. There's a bit of a remove: though in many ca...more
The Ben Busch described on the Dust-to-Dust book jacket is a Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq. The Ben Busch described in the pages between the covers is a poet.

“The dust and sand moved relentlessly across the desert like a film of rough liquid being dragged by invisible rakes. Pointless and purposeful.”

His poetry is what settles into memory after the fighting stops.

“I was listening to dust. We were waiting to invade a land composed of it. The static coming over the radios sometimes...more
This is the first memoir I ever read that I could relate to. A "solitary being" drawn to the elemental; what you can touch, feel, manipulate, construct, breath, and battle. Dust. Those looking for a memoir of human interaction and gab, where the physical is some soulless prop, should look elsewhere. This book finds substance in the "elements"; our interaction with them and contemplation of them which can shine a light on life and its impermanance. This will appeal to the engineer, craftsman, geo...more
Jack Gober
Best book of 2012 (at least so far). Busch is the son of novelist Frederick Busch ("The Night Inspector")and an actor who appeared on "The Wire". He has produced a memoir/meditation that meanders and sometimes circles like a stream from his boyhood wandering the woods of upstate New York, to his studies at Vassar, and his two tours as a Marine officer in Iraq. As the son of a novelist/academic father and a librarian mother, Busch seemed to find shelter from their bookishness in the forests and f...more
Jeff Larsen
Benjamin Busch's poetic memoir is wonderful. After hearing him read excerpts in Grand Rapids two weeks ago, I bought Dust to Dust and re-discovered my own childhood through Busch's heartfelt description of his youth and the connections to his adult life.
"Dust to Dust" is a wonderful read. A moving mediation on life, death and the experiences of a combat marine/actor/author/photographer. I enjoyed every page and recommend it to all of my friends.
Richard Alan
Dust to Dust is the most gripping novel I have read since Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea. Wonderful ! A very Human Document.
I read this book...twice. This is a first for me. Buy it. I promise you won't be disappointed. A literary gem.
Adam Wahlberg
Want to know about war and its aftereffects? Read this. Hauntng. Hats off to Busch for writing it.
One of the most necessary books I've read in a very long time.
Melissa Seitz
Moving. Beautiful writing. I loved this book.
Chris Cole
Amazing. Haunting. Beautiful.
John T. Hickey
This is a unique, carefully restrained yet eloquent coming-of age memoir of a would-be artist, actor, and eventually, somewhat inevitably, soldier. Busch structures his experience in terms of the elemental elements and experiences of his life which, so far, includes working artist/engineer of forts and dams; graduation from Vassar, service as a Marine officer (the first grad of Vassar to serve in the Marines) in Iraq and several other countries (where I didn't know we had serving Marines!), a re...more
I read this book looking for some over-arching theme. If there is one, I'd have to say it is impermanence.

Busch breaks his memoir down into elements of his childhood and life. The story is presented episodically, moving from boyhood to adulthood within each chapter as an element brings up remembrances, rather than proceeding chronologically. This lends itself to the theme in that nothing stays the same within the chapter. His experiences change things. The very elements shift. The river alters...more
Ginger Williams
I really, really wanted to like this book. A memoir by a Vassar fine arts graduate who becomes a Marine officer, serves in Iraq and then becomes an actor on The Wire? Sounds like a fascinating story, right?

Well, actually, no. It was disappointing. It consisted mostly of wordy descriptions of things in nature, like stones and trees, which did not hold my attention..

The book left unanswered some basic questions like why he even joined the Marines. I didn't learn much about Mr. Busch but I guess I...more
Kelly O'toole
Wow. Ben Busch has led an exciting life. He's been a Marine serving in Iraq. He's acted on The Wire. And now he's written a memoir about these experiences that is positively electrifying. He also writes about his boyhood and his parents, weaving the common elements in all of these together in brilliant, compelling language. The book is divided into 9 sections: Arms, Water, Metal, Soil, Bone, Wood, Stone, Blood, Ash. It's not chronological, but thematic, and the common elements of his experiences...more
After I read the first two lines of "Dust to Dust" I was hooked: 'I was not allowed to have a gun. My parents were fresh from Vietnam War protests, and they had no intention of raising a solider.'

As I am the daughter of a Vietnam War Veteran, and because my parents didn't place such an embargo on me or my brothers I wanted to learn more. Benjamin Busch's memoir is compelling, thoughtful and poignant. It is his story of growing up with the woods of rural New York as his playground and his time s...more
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Benjamin Busch is an actor, writer, director and photographer. He served 16 years as an infantry and light armored reconnaissance officer in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq in 2003 and 2005. As an actor he is best know for his portrayal of Officer Anthony Colicchio in the HBO series The Wire, and he is the writer/director of the film, BRIGHT. He is the author of a memoir, Dust to...more
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