Will Mackin

Författare till Bring Out the Dog: Stories

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Verk av Will Mackin

Bring Out the Dog: Stories (2018) 67 exemplar
Kattekoppen 1 exemplar

Associerade verk

The Best American Short Stories 2014 (2014) — Bidragsgivare — 273 exemplar


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I liked the stories. I can't add the the description in a long review on this page. As a veteran I could identify with much that went on, the boredom, terror, and the insulated life of men at war. I'd be interested in how the stories come across the non-vets unfamiliar with military acronyms, slang etc. Never mind the ethos of a regimented culture that most young men experienced years ago when the US had a draft.
mckall08 | 1 annan recension | Aug 9, 2018 |
BRING OUT THE DOG: STORIES is Will Mackin's first book, but he's been at this writing thing for several years already. In fact I first learned of Mackin, a Navy veteran, through reading a couple of his stories - "Kattekoppen" and "Crossing the River No Name" - in the New Yorker, a magazine it just ain't that easy to get published in. And I liked both stories, so I've been watching for a Mackin book ever since.

It's nothing new for a military veteran to mine his experience in writing fiction. There have already been dozens, if not scores of such writers to come out of the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Mackin's work measures up well, but comes at us from a slightly different slant. All eleven of the stories seem to share the same narrator, a seasoned member of a unit of Navy special ops night raiders whose mantra is "speed and violence." The narrator, who is unnamed (except for one mention of an obscene nickname, "F*** Stick," or FS), has been through numerous deployments to Afghanistan over several years under the same leader, Hal. Their home base is in Virginia Beach, and they train in North Carolina and Utah. Other team members carry colorful names like Digger, Mooch, Lex, Scrape, Goon and Cooker.

The first story, "Lost Troop," plunks the unit in the Afghan desert, left largely to its own devices, looking for likely targets, monitoring the area with drones and radios, seeking out the enemy. The strange nicknames, the seeming randomness of their actions, coupled with the story's title, made me think of the Lost Boys of J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN, and the hunt for their interpreter's old teacher only served to confirm this feeling. "Rib Night" is perhaps the most chilling and effective of all, with its portrayal of Digger's coming partially unglued, picking vicious fights in the mess hall following a raid in which he's killed three enemy in a dark room. Other stories, like "Baker's Strong Point" and "Welcome Man Will Never Fly" are set in training areas in Utah and North Carolina. But violence even follows the team to those places. And yet Mackin manages to convey a sense of the stark beauty of all these locations, with phrases like this one, about a Utah bomb range -

"Chocolate mountains stood beyond the targets, on the far rim of the basin. The flawless blue sky narrowed their shadows into points." ("Baker's Strong Point")

Or this description of mountainous terrain in Afghanistan -

"... I followed the patrol up the mountain - over soft cascades of sand at first, then little red pebbles that zipped and smoked like match heads under my boots, then flint ... Little purple flowers grew in the crags. Snow glittered in the shadows." ("Remain Over Day")

What really sets Mackin's stories apart from the crowd, though, is the sense of repeated deployments, several to Afghanistan, and then later, the narrator with a new team, to Iraq, is the plodding, pointless endlessness of these wars, which seem to have no end in sight. Indeed some of these stories have no real end, something which may frustrate some readers searching for a resolution. They simply stop, then bleed on, into the next story. As the narrator puts it -

"... I'd found it harder and harder to keep things straight. With all the back-and-forth, that is, between the war and home, and training for the war, sometimes I couldn't pinpoint the year, or the season. Sometimes I even forgot where I was, and I had to stop and think. For example, western Utah, 2009."

Dexter Filkins got it right, with his aptly titled book, THE FOREVER WAR. I couldn't help but think of this when, in the last story, "Backmask," the narrator, following a house search in which he detains three Iraqi women - or "feathers" - during a house search, he looks back and sees one of them watching him from a window as he departs. And he imagines one of the other women asking, "'Are they gone?' ... 'Not yet,' she said."

Are we gone? From Iraq, from Afghanistan, from Syria, from Africa? No. Not yet. The senseless forever war rages on. And Will Mackin's stories are vivid, violent reminders of this. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA
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TimBazzett | 1 annan recension | Feb 4, 2018 |



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