Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
I'm not quite sure why I held off reading Benjamin Busch's memoir Dust to Dust, but now that I've started it, I'm finding it difficult to put out of my mind.
Here's the publisher's summary:
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 finest work of Tim O'Brien or Annie Dillard.I am still in the early pages of Dust to Dust, but Busch's prose is addictive. His adventurous childhood was such a contrast to his father's sensibilities it's a wonder they had anything in common at all. As Busch notes, his father lived in words, whereas he lived in the world. Busch loved nature, but his father didn't even like houseplants. Busch wanted to be a soldier, but his parents had been active anti-Vietnam War protesters.
In elemental-themed chapters—water, metal, bone, blood—Busch weaves together a vivid record of a pastoral childhood in rural New York; Marine training in North Carolina, Ukraine, and California; and deployment during the worst of the war in Iraq, as seen firsthand. But this is much more than a war memoir. Busch writes with great poignancy about the resonance of a boyhood spent exploring rivers and woods, building forts, and testing the limits of safety. Most of all, he brings enormous emotional power to his reflections on mortality: in a helicopter going down; wounded by shrapnel in Ramadi; dealing with the sudden death of friends in combat and of parents back home.
Dust to Dust is an unforgettable meditation on life and loss, and how the curious children we were remain alive in us all.
This is not a chronological memoir, and in the first chapter, "Arms," we learn about Busch's childhood solitary war games, the winter he lived in a uninsulated trailer, and his joining the Marines, for example. Each chapter has a theme, signaled by the substance used as the title, such as water, metal, stone, and ash. I like this organization because people don't tend to look back on their lives in a neat time line; rather one memory triggers another without regard to the calendar.
I'm curious about how Benjamin Busch became an actor, his experiences in Iraq, and his relationship with his parents. Several of the reviews I read used the word melancholy, but so far I think I sense nostalgia.
I'll leave you with the last paragraph of the "Prologue":
Childhood is still present in me. I can hear my own echoes now, elliptical, my voice changed but not the wonder I had. In seeking to disinter my childhood, I have found it unburied. (p. 3)Let me know if you've finished Dust to Dust and what you think.
Here are some other opinions (click on the links for the full reviews):
- Irene Wanner for the Seattle Times: "it's fascinating to journey through his literary landscapes as time passes, swirls back, and eddies like a stream before flowing away."
- Publishers Weekly: "Benjamin Busch carries us on a haunting, humorous, and poignant journey in search of himself and his parents, especially his father."
- Meganne Fabrega for the Star Tribune: "Busch has taken the places he's been, physically and emotionally, and shares them with the skill of an intrepid explorer."