Originally Appeared in Unit Circle #5

GLASS (pray the electrons back to sand)

by James Chapman

This is an amazingly personal account of the Gulf War from the perspective of a foot soldier. The style of writing reminds me in places of Burrough's Interzone-era prose. It drifts from realistic storytelling into stream-of-consciousness fantasy. At first I was somewhat put off by it, but the story drew me in and kept me reading. I don't know if James Chapman was really in the Persian Gulf, but this book has an honesty about it that makes me believe he was. At the very least he had some good friends who were.

This is the story of a man living a horrible life. He works at a job he hates, with a girl-friend who attacks him. He drinks too much and continually mourns where his life has gone. Then, his life explodes. His girlfriend leaves him, and he careens wildly away from his old life, finally ending up at an army recruiting center, days after operation Desert Shield begins. The rest of the book describes his boot camp, specialist training and then Desert Storm itself.

It is an interesting perspective; it throws us to the other side of the TV screens we were all glued to that January. The fear, the doubts are related in a very real yet somewhat surreal manner.

There are places where this novel is quite humorous, and there are places where it is extremely dark. Overall, it veers towards the latter. In any case it is quite an interesting read and quite a discovery. I will definitely check out James Chapman's other books Our Plague: A Film from New York and The Walls Collide as You Expand, Dwarf Maple.

Unit Circle Non-Fiction