Our collective memories of World War II and Vietnam have been shaped as much by memoirs, novels, and films as they have been by history books. In Welcome to the Suck, Stacey Peebles examines the growing body of contemporary war stories in prose, poetry, and film that speak to the American soldier's experience in the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War.
Stories about war always encompass ideas about initiation, masculinity, cross-cultural encounters, and trauma. Peebles shows us how these timeless themes find new expression among a generation of soldiers who have grown up in a time when it has been more acceptable than ever before to challenge cultural and societal norms, and who now have unprecedented and immediate access to the world away from the battlefield through new media and technology.
Two Gulf War memoirs by Anthony Swofford (Jarhead) and Joel Turnipseed (Baghdad Express) provide a portrait of soldiers living and fighting on the cusp of the major political and technological changes that would begin in earnest just a few years later. The Iraq War, a much longer conflict, has given rise to more and various representations. Peebles covers a blog by Colby Buzzell ("My War"), memoirs by Nathaniel Fick (One Bullet Away) and Kayla Williams (Love My Rifle More Than You); a collection of stories by John Crawford (The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell); poetry by Brian Turner (Here, Bullet); the documentary Alive Day Memories; and the feature films In the Valley of Elah and the winner of the 2010 Oscar for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, both written by the war correspondent Mark Boal.
Books and other media emerging from the conflicts in the Gulf have yet to receive the kind of serious attention that Vietnam War texts received during the 1980s and 1990s. With its thoughtful and timely analysis, Welcome to the Suck will provoke much discussion among those who wish to understand today's war literature and films and their place in the tradition of war representation more generally.