Dubus has tapped into something with this memoir that can only be described with one word: brilliant. Through his reflection you are taken into a lifeDubus has tapped into something with this memoir that can only be described with one word: brilliant. Through his reflection you are taken into a life of poverty filled with an absent father, a trying mother, and a weak body; a family who would like to be wholesome, but does not have the right tools. The father lacks the discipline needed to properly parent, and his distance, his selfishness, makes him feel like a shadow, and it's this caricature, among many other failures, that haunt Dubus for years.
The neighborhood they are left in, which should really be called a hell hole, is fit only as a breeding ground for hate and malice. This neighborhood, not unique to Boston, is the type where the predators lead, the strong kill, and where everyone else gets called a cunt. Where violence, through fists, knives, and the occasional gun, is paramount for survival. Lofty notions like reason and law, peace and compassion, are so distant that the very idea of them is laughable.
The poignancy of Dubus's words and his journey are beautiful though. As the reader, you feel the violence and the rage down to your marrow, where the blood is made. And it's this blood-or membrane, as he likes to reference-that shapes his life.
When you see Dubus transform himself from prey to predator, from weak to tough, when he tastes blood and realizes that he likes it, it scares him. His writing is so good, that it will probably scare you too.
It is not until his 20s that he finds a more fitting outlet in his life, a tool that is more intrinsic with his DNA: the pen. Writing becomes his meditation, his relaxation, his therapy; and it is through this therapeutic motion that you become a witness to his growth-from boy, to monster, to man.
Dubus leaves nothing out, and is able to capture the alpha male violent dominance that plagues the world. He writes it better than anyone else because this book is not from an ethnographer's voyeuristic observation of a culture, this book, this hell, was his life.
It starts off callously, with a soulless cataloging of events that were not engaging, and as a reader, you may want to abandon; but if you tread on, you understand the hardness, the lack of emotion; that it doesn't exist in those pages initially not because Dubus lacks the ability to capture feeling, but because for large parts of his childhood he had none, he couldn't, he needed to survive.
This book is a deep look into the human condition, when that condition is given some of the worst life can offer. It is perhaps the best portrait of violence that has ever been captured in words. A concept, that even if you have no interest in, is done so well that you can't help but be in awe, and can't help but feel disturbed.
Side note: Near the end Dubus references one of the last conversations he had with his father, and in this conversation there is a boxing match that evening that their discussion revolves around. Except in reality, the night of this boxing match, which gets interjected into their conversation several times, does not happen until 7 months after his father has passed away. Perhaps Dubus was just capturing the essence of the conversation and used a different setting, but regardless, I think the impossibility of the time line, and the easy manner in which it is to check, is worth mentioning....more
Entertaining, but light on substance of the actual topic at hand (that being the one promoted in the title). The majority of the book is spent on theEntertaining, but light on substance of the actual topic at hand (that being the one promoted in the title). The majority of the book is spent on the human interest component of the author himself, becoming a Navy Seal and operating as one, and in this area, the book is an extreme success.
It was engaging, interesting, and insightful, seeing just the type of work and discipline it took to elevate to his level. The honesty that the author provides, specifically in dealing with his missteps, is not only intriguing, it's just good writing, bringing the reader into his world in a way where everyone can relate and empathize with his life and emotions. The editors succeeded in giving him a well rounded voice that had fluidity throughout. Others have commented on the poor writing this book has, but I disagree; Mark Owen is not kin to Mark Twain (or perhaps I should say Matt Bissonnette is not kin to Samuel Clemens), and the intent of this book is not to be great literature, but rather popular non-fiction (i.e. for the masses); and just because it's light and easy does not mean it's poor and disheveled-they published a good book here.
As for the sub-title of the book, The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden, this is what the book is light on-at least in terms of providing new information, or as the author says, to set the story straight. It's no surprise that there isn't much straightening going on in these chapters. I'm sure everyone expected this, but still, the bait and switch technique of a publisher/author is always obnoxious, especially when you were just pounded with scores of pages about honor and integrity.
The only major downside is the end where the author makes tacky comments that only put stains on his character. He mocks others, including former SEALs, for sharing information about this stealth group, to those seeking capital or other gain off of exploiting it; all fair points, unless of course you just wrote a book doing the same thing. He disrespectfully patronizes the founder of his specialized group for saying that a personality component of this elite squad is to be an egomaniac, all while, again, forgetting that he just wrote a book about himself. He brushes off his personal visit from the President, not even remembering his words or wanting to sign a flag; I guess he's trying to look cool here, but that was hardly my take away. And of course, the original release date of this book was September 11th, hardly an honorable choice to agree to, but luckily for him, it was bumped up a week due to the press it was receiving....more