A memoir on being a soldier
"Beautiful and smart and origina, Alex Vernon's memoir is a wise, honest, and tautly written account of a man's journey from youth to West Point to the Persian Gulf War to the world of academia. Beyond that, it is an intensely passionate exploration of the struggle in a young man's soul beteween the biddings of Eros and Thanatos, duty and conscience, commitment to ideal and commitment to self.”—Tim O'Brien
“At this moment, the nation seems interested in soldiering. Not the politics that complicate the very act of service, but the dirty business of being a soldier. No one, except soldiers, knows much about the aftermath of such service. most succinctly bred opens the experience to those who want to know more without having to sit inside the sweltering temperatures of the tank’s turret, without having to face day after day the real threat of dying.”—Pat C. Hoy II
Like Susan Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War,Alex Vernon’s most succinctly bred explores war by exploring around war, by operating in the margins. Vernon records his ongoing relationship with war and soldiering—from growing up in late Cold War 1980s middle America to attending West Point, going to and returning from the first Gulf War, and watching, as a writer and academic, the coming of the second Iraq war. Not merely a collection of essays, this book has a trajectory, and the chapters, appearing in rough chronological order, loop in and out of one another. It is not a narrow autobiography that attempts to account only for the writer’s life; it uses that life to illuminate the lives of its readers, to tell us about the time and place in which we find ourselves.
War has seasoned this reluctant soldier; it has wounded him as it wounds all soldiers. But war has not stopped Alex Vernon’s life. A large part of what we read here is a fascinating story of recovery. He dares to tell the stories of recuperation without naming them as such, without being in the least maudlin about his experiences or his suffering. Full of surprises, most succinctly bred tells all of the truth tells all of the truth Vernon can muster in a language that is lively, rich, suggestive. This is a book that aims high in an artful, subtle way.
▪ Arkansas Times: "...a memoir, a fractured essay, a kind of lyrical and confessional meditation....[with] passages...worth rereading if not memorizing." (6 Apr 06)
▪ Life & Times of Utica: "Unique, original, and sparkling with surprises, Vernon is alternately insightful and vulnerable as he explores the mystery of war." (21 Apr 06)
▪ Sewanee Review: ”Vernon’s is a compelling, wide-awake voice, quiet in its honesty yet strong and rhythmic in its deliverance, sober….His strength as a writer arises from his acknowledgment of his own weakness and self-doubt--that, and his wit, his youthful sagacity, and his sure knowledge of his craft.” (Fall 07)
▪ Arkansas Libraries: “I would be hard pressed to think of a book topic that would likely interest me any less than an essay memoir written by a former Desert Storm tank commander….[yet Vernon’s] talent for writing makes most succinctly bred enthralling reading.” (Fall 06)
▪ WLA: War, Literature, and the Arts: "intensely personal....concise....revelatory....startling.... thoughtful and often painful....captivating....[S]omething...we all need to hear." (Winter 07; http://www.wlajournal.com/18_1-2/bookReviews.pdf)
▪ H-War, H-Net Reviews: “the author's use of paradox to frame events around him as well as his own character make these essays remarkably engaging. Vernon's musings bounce between the world of the real and the tangible…and the intellectual and hyper-imaginative reveries attempting to find perspective in the chaotic world around him. Vernon splashes each essay with narratives of his experiences, soul-searching monologues, literature excerpts, sociopolitical commentary, and anecdotal stories all woven together into thematically tight packages placing his personal story in the broader context of history and the human condition.”(Dec 06; www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=74921174057507)
▪ Taught at U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs) and Troy University (Montgomery, AL)