Have you ever seen a movie preview and gone to the movie only to realize that the best parts of the movie were in the preview?
I had the good fortune to hear Busch (featured in The Wire, son of the author Frederick) read from his memoir at the Brews + Prose (https://www.facebook.com/MarketGardenBreweryReadingSeries) event at the Market Garden Brewery last month. Now that I’ve finished his book, I know that he read some of the best scenes in it in voices only he could recall / create.
He called his book a “recursive memoir.” That’s fine. I don’t need things to go in order. But after a while, things began to feel a bit formulaic, like he’d decided on a recipe and was intent on contriving a way to make sure each chapter, named after an element (water, metal, soil, bone, etc.) adhered to the pattern.
Slowly, though, the memoir built a quiet but cumulative power. Busch stands on the beach between the water and the land and realizes what’s going on to land and what’s headed back out into the water. At the same time, he’s aware of what’s below his feet. It becomes almost scientific. Nothing goes away; it changes form – sometimes with the help of man, who is often responsible, and sometimes to blame. That’s why when he says in his Epilogue “I have been presented all the evidence of every particle’s part in universal transience, and I have decided to believe in none of it” (295-296), the line comes off as a throwaway, like he’s yanking on the thread that might threaten to unravel his whole book. But it doesn’t wash. “Dust to Dust” is the truth of this book, and Busch, who seemed to spend forever in Iraq and its deserts, is in a good position to know.
In honor of the eight years that have passed since his father’s death, Busch gave away 8 copies of his father’s book, A Memory of War, to anyone who promised to try to read it. And that is how he presented his father’s work, like they would represent a significant challenge to the reader. I took the last one. And I will read it. Just not next.