Great, thoughtful novel: high school reunions and the effect of the Iraq War on America in the early 21st century.
While hollering and breathing so long so deep
Memory came on and dove down to my sleep
Dreaming this memory of space all around
Silence becomes breath becomes thought becomes sound.
He thought of the sudden pressure in his eardrums when the bomb went off beneath the wheels. The screaming pain in his skull and how the world abruptly went half-dark. Three tours. He gave his youth to the dust of those theaters. An eye, some skin, blood, and hair, and his ability to walk more than a few miles without a crippling pain in his knees and an ache in his spine that made him feel seventy years old. On tour #3, the day before the incident on Highway 1, he was reading about Ohio’s place in the Civil War and came across a quote about a Union general: At the sight of these dead men whom other men had killed, something went out of him, the habit of a lifetime, that never came back again: the sense of the sacredness of life and the impossibility of destroying it.
Then you get tired and lie down and wait for the medevac. A part of you is sickly impressed with how the enemy orchestrated all this. They got you good this time. You figure your life is over, but the investigation will clear you easily. You saw a threat in the cell phone boy and removed it from your section. The bullet Rudy took to the head—a 5.56mm piece of U.S. hardware—it turns out that came from extra ammo carelessly left in the rear cooking off in the heat. And lying there in the dust, head buzzing from the burning fuel, the wind smoldering with black smoke and ash trailing to a seared pink twilight sky, you understand that something’s gone out of you, the habit of your lifetime. Any notion of the sacredness of life or the impossibility of destroying it. You go over to what’s left of your friend, sit down, bleed from your face, and wait for some rescue. [p. 358]
Source: Theses on the Philosophy of History (1940), IX Context: A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.