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Dust to Dust: A Memoir

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  273 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Dust to Dust is an extraordinary memoir about ordinary things: life and death, peace and war, the adventures of childhood and the revelations of adulthood. Benjamin Busch—a decorated U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served two combat tours in Iraq, an actor on The Wire, and the son of celebrated novelist Frederick Busch—has crafted a lasting book to stand with the fi ...more
ebook, 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
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
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
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
'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
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
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.
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
The author went to Vassar, majored in art, and became a Marine officer with two tours in Iraq – not someone who stereotypes easily. The book is called a memoir and is divided into 9 chapters - I would call them essays – with titles like Arms, Water, or Bone. When I began the book, it seemed you could read the essays as individual pieces; by the end I saw them as having beautiful cohesion and wholeness.

This is not a typical chronological memoir. Each chapter begins with a section describing his c
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
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
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
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
Wes F
Can't remember how I even heard about this book--and then why I bought the Kindle version. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, though not what you would expect from an Iraq war vet who was a Marine. Well, Busch is no ordinary Marine--he is a graduate of Vassar and came out of it an officer. He's also an actor and film-maker. His Dad was a writer and I'd say some of his talent was passed on through his genes.

Just check these few short acclamations on Busch's book--and you'll probably want to
You may know Benjamin Busch as an actor on The Wire and other television programs and movies. I’ve never seen The Wire—no TV, no cable, no satellite—so I haven’t seen his acting work. I know him because we’re Facebook friends, although I’m not sure how that came about. And I’ve known of him for a long time, since I read his father’s essay in Harper’s about Ben’s military service. You see, I was a fan of the fiction of Frederick Busch, Ben’s father. The elder Busch, who died suddenly in 2006, was ...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.
Rebecca Moll
There is a rare beauty in Benjamin Busch's writing that is difficult to explain. Delivered through simple syntax and a tempo that lends to reflection, Dust To Dust, is a true experience for the mindful reader. Told through elements of his own life, contrasted against elements of our world, Busch lays open the yin and yang of the metaphysical and physical, immortality and eventuality, survival and invincibility against all that ever remains -- Love by and of mothers and fathers. A moving tribute ...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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