No Joy by David Rose
  Book Reviews    October 24, 2017     Eric Larkin

“Death quickly lost all romance, and soon became the quiet, impersonal vacuum, left after a bloody surprise.”

David Rose was a Recon Marine in Iraq. Most of No Joy is his military experience, in and out of war, but you get a glimpse at everything (in bracing detail) from his youth to his time at the London School of Economics. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the actual combat and the chaos of the rest of his life. Despite the extreme non-linearity of the narrative – indeed, nothing about Rose here is not extreme – his consistent voice holds it all together. There are quotes I could pull out of this thing that would blow your mind, but without the context of Rose’s story, it probably isn’t a good idea —

— but, like the wussified blogger version of Rose and his buddies on a bender in East Africa, I’m just gonna quote some shit anyway, damn the consequences, I’m just hardcore like that [jumps out of helicopter IKEA chair] —

Not all who go to war for their society go to war for their society…. Do they really think we all gave a shit about the Iraqi or Afghan people… or them? There is a truth out there, clawing just under the surface, that may cause a lot of startled citizens to take down the yellow ribbons for good or hang a smaller American flag outside their door. We – the reluctant heroes of the country songs and candlelit vigils – wanted to kick ass, and that is just shorthand for wanting to kill. To see it happen. To live through it.

This is not a confessional, and it’s not exactly anti-war. It’s definitely not jingoistic, either. It’s straight-talk about warrior culture, good and bad. Alongside the stuff that scares us squishy civilian types, there are insights that are applicable to everyone.

 

And striking out into the Uncomfortable is what got us out of the caves — expansion of awareness and networks enhances perceptions of life and the world as a whole. In short, the barnacle attachment to comfort neuters and dulls. It’s a fluffy cage, one a succumbed underachiever can mill about in, telling their progeny that they can do and be anything, all the while, unknowingly perhaps, confirming that some people cannot.

I was fortunate enough to connect the two, the cause and effect that bogged down the faces and silhouettes of my upbringing. Without being aware of the finer mechanics, or even knowing what I was doing really, I plunged into one uncomfortable situation after the next, each time pushing the walls out just a little bit more.

At some point, as one comes up for air in the austere environments that have become something like home, one finds themselves a forger, a pioneer. The frontiers may differ, but those who dare to cut a swath are virtually free in the niches they carved.

 

Hot damn. That’s what writing’s all about: the writer suffers, we pluck the insights like ripe fruit. 

No Joy is artful, but with zero hesitation and no pulled punches. He writes… well, he writes like a Marine. I guarantee you will cringe, and you will laugh at things you probably shouldn’t laugh at. You will absolutely learn a few things about war and humanity, no matter what you already think you know. You won’t “like” all of this book; it’s got an uncomfortable edge. But you just might find something in there to lever you out of that haze – not to go to war or join Recon (ha ha – as if) – but to run at whatever you’re shrinking from.

 

 

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