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Eat the Apple
Cover of Eat the Apple
Eat the Apple
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"The Iliad of the Iraq war" (Tim Weiner)—a gut-wrenching, beautiful memoir of the consequences of war on the psyche of a young man.

Eat the Apple is a daring, twisted, and darkly hilarious story of American youth and masculinity in an age of continuous war. Matt Young joined the Marine Corps at age eighteen after a drunken night culminating in wrapping his car around a fire hydrant. The teenage wasteland he fled followed him to the training bases charged with making him a Marine. Matt survived the training and then not one, not two, but three deployments to Iraq, where the testosterone, danger, and stakes for him and his fellow grunts were dialed up a dozen decibels.

With its kaleidoscopic array of literary forms, from interior dialogues to infographics to prose passages that read like poetry, Young's narrative powerfully mirrors the multifaceted nature of his experience. Visceral, ironic, self-lacerating, and ultimately redemptive, Young's story drops us unarmed into Marine Corps culture and lays bare the absurdism of 21st-century war, the manned-up vulnerability of those on the front lines, and the true, if often misguided, motivations that drove a young man to a life at war.

Searing in its honesty, tender in its vulnerability, and brilliantly written, Eat the Apple is a modern war classic in the making and a powerful coming-of-age story that maps the insane geography of our times.

"The Iliad of the Iraq war" (Tim Weiner)—a gut-wrenching, beautiful memoir of the consequences of war on the psyche of a young man.

Eat the Apple is a daring, twisted, and darkly hilarious story of American youth and masculinity in an age of continuous war. Matt Young joined the Marine Corps at age eighteen after a drunken night culminating in wrapping his car around a fire hydrant. The teenage wasteland he fled followed him to the training bases charged with making him a Marine. Matt survived the training and then not one, not two, but three deployments to Iraq, where the testosterone, danger, and stakes for him and his fellow grunts were dialed up a dozen decibels.

With its kaleidoscopic array of literary forms, from interior dialogues to infographics to prose passages that read like poetry, Young's narrative powerfully mirrors the multifaceted nature of his experience. Visceral, ironic, self-lacerating, and ultimately redemptive, Young's story drops us unarmed into Marine Corps culture and lays bare the absurdism of 21st-century war, the manned-up vulnerability of those on the front lines, and the true, if often misguided, motivations that drove a young man to a life at war.

Searing in its honesty, tender in its vulnerability, and brilliantly written, Eat the Apple is a modern war classic in the making and a powerful coming-of-age story that maps the insane geography of our times.

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Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 25, 2017
    In this bold memoir, ex-Marine Young examines how war transformed him from a confused teenager into a dangerous and damaged man. Fresh from high school and with no direction, Young walked into a Marine recruitment center in 2005 and sealed his fate. Soon he was suffering the indignities of basic training before being deployed to “the sandbox” in Iraq, where he sweated, masturbated, shot stray dogs, and watched friends get blown up. Despite the constant misery and suffocating discipline, Young reenlisted twice more and even volunteered for Iraq on his last tour. Brief stints in the U.S. that blurred away into drunken violence and infidelity made war seem far safer to Young than civilian life. Eschewing first-person memoir conventions, Young, now a creative-writing professor at Centralia College, presents his experiences through a broad range of narrative approaches—second person, third person, first-person plural, screenplay, crude drawings, invented dialogue between various selves, etc. There’s real risk of trivializing the material, but Young matches his stylistic daring with raw honesty, humor, and pathos. Comparisons to Michael Herr’s Dispatches, about the Vietnam War, are apt, but where Herr searched for thrills and headlines as a journalist, Young writes from a grunt’s perspective that has changed little since Roman legionnaires yawned through night watch on Hadrian’s Wall: endless tedium interrupted by moments of terror and hilarity, all under a strict regime of blind obedience and foolish machismo.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from November 15, 2017

    Young, a fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good and creative writing professor at Centralia College, WA, tells of being a U.S. marine and serving three tours in Iraq in the mid-to-late 2000s. He does not sugarcoat the details of war or ask for forgiveness; in fact, he is not sure that he wants readers to thank him for his service. Each chapter is brief, three to four pages, and presented in varying formats, such as a screenplay and thoughts in first, second, and third person. Some chapters are written to the author's past self from his future self and one section is an apology letter to a cabbie he punched after his third tour. The difficulty of basic training is contrasted with the boredom and brutality of combat. Young's actions--cheating on his fiance, surviving an IED explosion, holding a severed head--may cause revulsion among readers or may lead to sympathy. VERDICT This honest war memoir will shock and horrify, will cause readers to tear up, and will make them wish they could tell a 19-year-old marine that everything will be okay. Highly recommended for all collections.--Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2017
    In this debut memoir, Young (English/Centralia Coll.) reflects on his experiences joining the Marine Corps at the age of 18 and his subsequent tour in Iraq.The author, who teaches creative writing and composition, uses a variety of literary styles, but he is straightforward about his own shortcomings: "You've chosen the United States Marine Corps infantry based on one thing: you got drunk and crashed your car into a fire hydrant sometime in the early morning and think--because your idea of masculinity is severely twisted and damaged by the male figures in your life and the media with which you surround yourself--that the only way to change is the self-flagellation achieved by signing up for war." Throughout the book, Young pays homage to many clear influences, not least Gustav Hasford's novel The Short-Timers (1979) and its film adaptation, Full Metal Jacket, as well as Anthony Swofford's Jarhead (2003) and Tim O'Brien's similarly episodic The Things They Carried (1990). The shock and trauma of war come into play in Young's stories, but he also gives equal time to discussions of boredom, masturbation, infidelity, shame, and regret, all rendered in a caustically humorous tone. With chapters such as "How to Ruin a Life," "How to Throw a Drunken Punch," and "How to Feel Ashamed for Things You Never Did," the author performs a certain amount of literary alchemy, using style and the space between memory and fiction to transform his raw experiences into self-lacerating works of art. By the time the end comes, after three combat deployments, he was a changed man. "I have acted like a bullet," he writes. "I entered lives and bounced and ricocheted and broken and torn. Now I am going to exit one life and that life will have no say."A real war story told in fragments by a gifted young writer trying to come to grips with his experiences.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • New York Times Book Review Inventive, unsparing, irreverent and consistently entertaining.
  • Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air Young is a frank, funny and mercilessly self-lacerating narrator. His writing is entertaining and experimental . . . Eat the Apple is a brilliant and barbed memoir of the Iraq War.
  • Starred review, Publishers Weekly Young matches his stylistic daring with raw honesty, humor, and pathos.
  • Starred review, Booklist [Young's] memoir is creatively told in atmospheric and gut-checking essays . . . [his] visceral prose, honed in college and writing programs after his tours of duty, confronts shame, guilt, and pain without flinching yet is beyond sympathetic to its subject; it is another act of service.
  • Starred review, Library Journal This honest war memoir will shock and horrify, will cause readers to tear up, and will make them wish they could tell a 19-year-old marine that everything will be okay. Highly recommended.
  • Kirkus Reviews [Young] performs a certain amount of literary alchemy, using style and the space between memory and fiction to transform his raw experiences into self-lacerating works of art . . . A real war story told in fragments by a gifted young writer trying to come to grips with his experiences.
  • The Seattle Review of Books Eat the Apple perfectly captures that dichotomy of the American military - to protect individual freedoms, we must destroy our own individual freedoms - in beautiful, hilarious, horrifying prose. After reading it, you will never again be able to look at another platoon of homogeneous young soldiers without seeing all the individual hopes and fears and failures and dreams roiling just under the surface of those young faces.
  • The St. Louis Post Dispatch If there's a single element to great writing, it's honest observation: the ability to describe the common, anew. An unconventional memoir by a combat veteran in his early 30s—his first book—has that element on every page . . . Matt Young insists on writing everything that is warped about serving in the Marines and weak about himself. Yet in the end, there's an entire book of strength between the lines.
  • Writer's Bone, naming EAT THE APPLE one of the best books of the year A searing, brutal look into American men at war.
  • Consequence Magazine Young exhibits a masterful understanding of self and subject by knowing and acknowledging the deep, tire-gashing potholes of the war memoir genre and rolling over them in a way that feels new; smoother, more considered . . . [Eat the Apple] demands more of the reader than most, asking hard questions and providing few, if any, easy answers.
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