Dust to Dust

( 17 )

Overview

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.

In elemental-themed chapters—water, metal, bone, blood—Busch ...

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Dust to Dust: A Memoir

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Overview

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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Son of celebrated novelist Frederick Busch, Benjamin Busch carries us on a haunting, humorous, and poignant journey in search of himself and his parents, especially his father. Reducing his life to the purest elements that compose it—soil, water, blood, bone, ash, stone, wood, metal, arms—the younger Busch intersperses stories of growing up in North Carolina, rural New York, and California with his harrowing and life-defining experiences on the sports field and on the battlefields of Iraq. While his father experienced the world through language and had an intellectual relationship with the physical universe, Busch gains comprehension of his environment by throwing himself against it. His father builds with words, but the son builds with pieces of earth and comes to understand life through digging, cutting, climbing, and stacking. Drawn to high school football because of its armor—which protects him in the combat of adolescence and separates him from the belief in injury—Busch charges down the field one Friday night with all his energy channeled into plowing into and tackling the runner returning the game’s opening kick. Struck in the knee—which was unprotected by pads and armor—by a teammate, his leg seems to unravel around the bone, and in that moment his entire life is defined by physical pain and the will to survive it. Though his father feared the insignificance of his prose and his death, the younger Busch defiantly stares down both, living boldly in the face of mortality. Agent: Elaine Markson. (Mar.)
Ward Just
Dust to Dust is a wonderful book, original in concept and stunningly written, a soldier’s memoir that is about soldiering and much else besides. The last two dozen pages are a tour de force, a breathtaking meditation on loss and remembrance, dust to dust.”
New York Journal of Books
“Extraordinary. . . . It is impossible to read any part of this work and not be moved. . . . [Dust to Dust] is one to be savored. Don’t fail to read it.”
New Yorker
“[Busch’s] portrayal of the war in Iraq is unsentimental and immediate.”
Men's Journal
“Essential Iraq War reading. . . . The conflict between Busch’s pacifist upbringing and his evolution into a decorated Marine rests at the heart of this fine memoir.”
Seattle Times
“Beautifully written. . . . Captivating. . . . It’s fascinating to journey through [these] literary landscapes as time passes, swirls back, and eddies like a stream before flowing away.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Busch writes with eloquence about his tours of combat in Iraq, and seamlessly blends the human and natural characteristics of war.”
Buffalo News
“Intriguing. . . . A worthwhile read.”
New York Times Book Review
Dust to Dust is not a typical contemporary war memoir. . . . It partakes of the pastoral strain associated with World War I trench-poets like Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas.”
Details
“[A] must-read memoir.”
Salon.com
“A remarkable book—part military memoir, part childhood reminiscence. . . . Busch is filled with complicated and fascinating contradictions.”
The SunBreak
Dust to Dust is startlingly good.”
Newark Star Ledger
“A beautiful and powerful meditation on combat, profound loss, and mortality.”
Wisconsin State Journal
“An invigorating and moving take on the war memoir.”
Huffington Post
“A beautiful meditation on war, loss, and the larger questions of life and death.”
Baltimore City Paper
“[Busch] writes with the precision of a stonemason, the courage of a combat veteran, and the inquisitiveness of an artist. . . . A haunting meditation on time, memory, and death.”
Hour Detroit Magazine
"A meditation on the literal and figurative borders of life—country to country, river to lake, soil to dust, wood to ash, life to death, blood to bones, child to man—[that] explores the wonders of the natural world and our solitary lives within it."
Karl Marlantes
“Elegiac, funny, wistful, deep, and wonderfully human, Dust to Dust moved me to laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously. . . . After reading this book, you will want to go outside and really look at our world.”
Doug Stanton
“Busch is a brilliant prose stylist for whom every pause counts, a man of three worlds—the heart, the mind, the earth. Dust to Dust is a stunning literary work about this mysterious trinity, and a return to home.”
Mary Karr
“This brave soldier with his singular sensibility . . . builds us a fort we’re loath to leave.”
Bonnie Jo Campbell
“Busch is a poet with the soul of a civil engineer, and for as long as his body sustains him, he is the perfect soldier. I loved every page of this mesmerizing book.”
Philip Caputo
“An imaginative, original meditation on mortality that reaches beyond the particulars of the Iraq war and the present day to grasp the universal. It is a literary gem.”
Hour Detroit magazine
“A meditation on the literal and figurative borders of life—country to country, river to lake, soil to dust, wood to ash, life to death, blood to bones, child to man—[that] explores the wonders of the natural world and our solitary lives within it.”
Details
“[A] must-read memoir.”
Ward Just
Dust to Dust is a wonderful book, original in concept and stunningly written, a soldier’s memoir that is about soldiering and much else besides. The last two dozen pages are a tour de force, a breathtaking meditation on loss and remembrance, dust to dust.”
Library Journal
Son of novelist Frederick Busch, decorated marine, and an actor (he was a cop on The Wire), Busch has a life story richer than most. This memoir, with chapters framed by basics like water and metal, blood and bone, considers how we don't put away childish things. At first glance literate and meditative, with some publicity muscle and a 75,000-copy first printing; I'm rooting for it.
Kirkus Reviews
One man's philosophical explorations into the trials of childhood, adulthood and the Marine Corps. In his debut memoir, actor/writer Busch--son of writer Frederick Busch--proves his own literary talents by delving deep into the memories of his coming-of-age amid war and literature. While his poignant, nostalgia-laced boyhood remembrances provide an occasionally entertaining backdrop, far more interesting are Busch's experiences serving in Iraq. Yet even the war scenes take on a meditative gloss, replacing the pulse-pounding moments with muted reflections on life, death and the preservation of memory. In one particularly reflective passage, Busch writes, "People die with their stories every day, taking them and leaving a history of gathered objects." The author seeks to spare himself the same fate, recording the epiphanies and minutiae of his life as if to keep from being forgotten. What the book lacks in narrative arc it makes up for in organization. Busch relies not on chronology, but thematic links, connections between his life and the elements with which he surrounds himself: water, metal, soil, bone, wood and others. The author's ability to reveal beauty in the mundane--the dismantling of a sandbox, the drilling of an ice-fishing hole, the burial of a goat--does much to entice readers, but his somewhat sprawling narrative fails to reach its intended crescendo. Competently written, though weighed down by a narrative more tenuous than tangible.
Elizabeth D. Samet
Dust to Dust is not a typical contemporary war memoir: it is too quiet for that. To some degree it partakes of the pastoral strain associated with World War I trench-poets like Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas—soldiers whose contemplative connection to the earth in which they lived and fought eclipses the clamor of battle by writing through, or perhaps tunneling under, the experience. War's distillation of violence and tragedy simply offers a more intensified version of the ruin Busch already feels all around him.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062014849
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/20/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 671,630
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Busch is a United States Marine Corps infantry officer, photographer, film director, and actor whose many roles have included Officer Anthony Colicchio on the HBO series The Wire. His writing has been featured in Harper's and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He has also appeared as a guest commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He lives on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    'Attrition is the mission.' By Grady Harp There are memoirs and

    'Attrition is the mission.'
    By Grady Harp
    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 molding his psyche, admixing moments of childhood memories with adult confrontations with such ominous beasts as wars and the threat of annihilation, yet in the end his book settles into the rank of great literature - a book so thoughtfully unique, so eloquently written, that instead of a Memoir (and one deserving the capital M) Benjamin Busch has written an extended poem that embraces all the interstices of life as it is being remembered and experienced in as completely involved a fashion as a learned sage of much older years.

    One of the many facets of this book is Busch's decision to divide his book into chapters that are based on the themes of elements - Arms, Water, Metal, Soil, Bone, Wood, Stones, Blood, Ash - a wise technique of traveling from childhood to adulthood in each chapter, ingeniously focusing each level of memory regression based on an aspect of his young years that became part of his direction toward revealing reality as it feels at the present. Childhood preoccupation with fighting and creating battleships and airplanes and the other accoutrements of a young (very bright) boy's mind slowly emerge toward his life as a soldier. But just as toy airplanes made of alley trash and foil never get off the ground despite the longing for consummation of adventurous dreams, so does the commitment to become a Marine Corps officer fail to rise to expectations of glorious battle and instead results in delays and aborted odd missions until the action in Iraq et al when primed conceit is rotted with shrapnel wounds and observation of loss of life - all in meaningless exercises in loss and disillusion.

    Another surprise that accompanies the reader on every page of this book is the manner in which Benjamin Busch has so quickly become a painter - representational and expressionist and impressionist and photographic and collage - with his recreating his childhood and the subsequent move toward adulthood. His depictions of long ago created forts, of his interaction with the vagaries of nature's water bodies and other remembered childhood interactions with the elements are as pulsatile and poetic as are his depictions of Okinawa, Iraq, boot camp, and the response to the death of his parents. And Busch uses this gift of pictorial creation to define a life that is molded by a significant past and constantly altered by the coincidences of the present. Yes there are portions about the author's response to war as he lives it: `I walked though the battlefield as if I were a tourist. I looked at Iran in the near distance. It had battled Iraq with artillery shells that we had sent them in the support of the shah, and Iraq had fired back with shells that we had later given in support of Saddam. We were now hunting that same man, Rumsfeld's old ally, who was, at the moment, hiding in a hole in the dirt, writing orders to his lieutenants requiring their resistance to terrorists we blamed him for befriending, He was hiding in a hole in the yard of a house that had no cellar.' Ludicrous reality reported by a wise Marine who was there. This blend of irony and humor pervades the book, allowing breezes of fresh air to the author's analysis of the passage of time as he has lived in it. `I found it odd that celebration and mourning were coupled in so many single, detached acts. All bullets landed somewhere.'

    In Benjamin Busch's Epilogue he reflects, `I have seen cities destroyed in my life, people buried, graves dug up. I have lived outside in the elements. I know that everything is recomposed from preexisting matter, that we are all fragments from earth and life blown apart and gathered up. Pieces of us are form stars and meteors, the ocean, dirt, and the dead. We will not be able to keep these pieces wither, our bodies doomed to be given back to the ground.' Writing of this quality comes only from great minds - perhaps part of the gift is genetically passed from Busch's father, writer Frederick Busch whose precise, poetic novels and stories delved into the seemingly unspectacular but ultimately profound experiences of people and families grappling with existential crises. What every the ingredients that comprise Busch's gift he is surely one of the more important writers to emerge in a long time: he will not fall into the military phrase that titles this review. He must be read to experience and appreciate his worth. Grady Harp,

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    This is a fantastic book. I loved the unusual, cyclic structure.

    This is a fantastic book. I loved the unusual, cyclic structure. I loved the building of themes. I've loaned this book to several friends who all found it fascinating. Reading this book will make you aware of (perhaps largely forgotten) things from your past that helped make you what you've become.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2012

    I know the author of this book personally, and I can say that th

    I know the author of this book personally, and I can say that this sounds like him. He can bounce between philosophical and ascerbic sarcasm, and this book is the philosophical side of him, captured on paper. It's told in a train of thought style, linking between various stories of his childhood, military experience, and young adulthood. It can be inspiring, it can be amusing, and sometimes it can be a very melancholy tale. I talked with him at a signing, and he told me that I wouldn't understand all of it at 13. And I know I won't. But this is why he's so fascinating to learn about. This book is a projection of his thoughts, almost making you fell like you're conversing with him bout experiences. To pass this over would be a great shame.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    Pierce

    Hello?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2013

    Dusty

    "Yes im back now and Jake, leave." Move to res three

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    BORDER

    BORDER

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2012

    "Dust to Dust" was an excellent read; a moving meditat

    "Dust to Dust" was an excellent read; a moving meditation on life, death and the experiences of a combat marine/actor/writer/photographer. I enjoyed every word and recommended it to all of my friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2012

    Interesting but not as good as it had the potential to be

    I looked forward to this book with great anticipation and while it is a good book it had the potential to be great. I am looking forward to the author's next book and to watching him move from good to great.

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  • Posted April 17, 2012

    Remarkable Story of One Young Man's Life

    i read Busch's article in the Daily Beast about the murders of the Afgans by a young soldier and expected this book to be pretty much about the authors experiences in the Marines. far from it. it was really a journey from his young childhood to the present. and it was a very interesting journey. i hate giving plotlines away, especially when the book has been described by the publisher, so suffice it to say this is a very interesting and very easy read and i highly recommend it.

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  • Posted March 26, 2012

    If you like boring nonfiction books with prose that put you to s

    If you like boring nonfiction books with prose that put you to sleep, prepare to be disappointed. Busch's narrative style spoke to me. I found the book's themes on loss struck a chord with me- one that I perhaps wasn't ready to examine, but had to confront.

    I highly recommend adding this to your collection.

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  • Posted March 24, 2012

    The book featured a circular path for the narrative. He begins w

    The book featured a circular path for the narrative. He begins with his childhood, flashes forward to tell an anecdote about college, then back to his childhood, forward to something about the Marine Corps, back to his childhood, forward to a war time anecdote. As a child he was sort of a loner, wandering around doing s**t, wanting to be a warrior. There seemed to be a lot more about his childhood that really wasn't all that useful in seeing how it formed the warrior. All young boys wander around doing s**t, and playing war. We all dug forts and defended them against invaders. His childhood was about as mundane as 90% of us except for his famous father who doesn't seem to have been a big influence in his life.

    I would have rather seen a single chapter showing what a mundane childhood he actually had to end up a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps, an actor and all the rest. And more time on his formative wartime experiences. All in all a disappointing and unfulfilling read for me. I was barely able to slog through it at times.

    There are far too many better books about the experience, not the least of which is Sebastian Junger's book, 'War'.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2012

    This book will encourage you to explore your own memories and fi

    This book will encourage you to explore your own memories and find in them immense power to bring back those you have lost and discover the endurance of the human spirit. It honors the survival of our childhood while grappling with our departure from it.

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    Posted March 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 16, 2013

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    Posted March 27, 2012

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    Posted December 12, 2013

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