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Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir Hardcover – June 5, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Intense.... As 'Jarhead' (2003), his harrowing account of serving with the Marines during the first gulf war, so eloquently attests, Mr. Swofford can write like he drives: fast and furious and profane, a poet's touch control channeling all the testosterone and adrenaline into a high-test, high-wire performance. His new memoir... reminds us of the power of Mr. Swofford's prose - his ability to conjure a mood, a time, a place with a flick of his pen."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A gritty, intense and wrenching account..."—USA Today

"Join Anthony Swofford on his journey toward true manhood....HOTELS, HOSPITALS, AND JAILS is a powerful and sometimes painful book to read. The writing is short, staccato and rhythmic. More importantly, it's honest."—Bookpage.com

"Anthony Swofford has ruined me. His latest book is a memoir, Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails. And it's all guts. I laughed. I cried. I sat in somber silence. I could not put this book down. As deadlines escalate around me, other books need to be read, blurb requests are stacking up, it doesn't matter, it's the Anthony Swofford show...He splays it out. He's unrelenting. This is a book many authors have to wait until their fathers die or until someone dies to be this honest at portraying their families."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Swofford shares brutally honest stories about his family, random sex, hard drinking and his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to cope with life and post-traumatic stress...Swofford is an often-gripping narrator, at his best both angry and charismatic without apology...The chapter about visiting a veterans' hospital has rightly been singled out as a remarkable piece of writing."—The Huffington Post

"[S]earing...Swofford's prose remains as strong as ever. And his insights into his own past and present strike an honest chord."—Associated Press

"Fiery follow-up memoir by the bestselling author of Jarhead . . . Swofford's writing, like many of his stories, is explosive . . . the author's voice and energy are compelling . . . sure to be a bestseller."—Kirkus Reviews

"Swofford's brisk storytelling, deadpan humor, and appealing swagger."—The New Yorker

"Swofford is a remarkable writer, and Hotels might prove to be a timely reminder that for soldiers who have served our country overseas, returning home sometimes marks the start of yet another long battle."—NPR.org

"If perhaps some conversations are recollected here with incredible level of accuracy, the narrative is better off for it. Swofford has put in some hard years, and he writes of his past with a grit and flair for noir that can only be honed with experience."—The Daily Beast

"Remarkable....By dint of its jumpy nature, 'Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails' doesn't go into enough depth in explaining how Swofford righted his life. But his writing is too good and engaging for that to prevent the book from being a worthy entry in the pantheon of dysfunctional-family memoirs."—The Boston Globe

"Anthony Swofford has given us a complex, unflinching, loving, and sometimes harrowing memoir. Candid as a locomotive, written with fury and grace, this book has a dangerous, achingly desperate personality of its own. I was shaken and moved."
Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried

"Swofford has done an amazing job showing how war plays out in peoples' lives for years after they come home. I read this book with the eagerness one usually reserves for fiction. It is a tremendous look into one man's attempt to replace war with life."—Sebastian Junger, author of WAR

"Following Swofford's struggle to come to terms with a difficult father and his experience of war- and the two are intertwined-we soon realize that this writer is making easier our struggles against leading a parent's life instead of our own. He blazes a trail for all of us with honesty and skill, gem after gem. Swofford is quite simply the master of the metaphor. The chapter describing his visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital will break your heart and it should."—Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War and What It Is Like To Go To War

"Anthony Swofford is a writer of painful and painfully powerful prose."—Sacramento News & Review

ACCLAIM FOR JARHEAD

"By turns profane and lyrical, swaggering and ruminative, Jarhead is not only the most powerful memoir to emerge thus far from the last gulf war, but also a searing contribution to the literature of combat."—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"A bayonet in the eye...brutal and unforgettable."—Sacramento Bee, on Jarhead

"A brutally honest memoir... gut-wrenching frontline reportage."—Entertainment Weekly, on Jarhead

"Jarhead is a stunning success... Swofford has created what may become a classic of modern war literature, a Gulf War addition to the shelf holding Vietnam narratives such as Michael Herr's Dispatches and Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"If you want a clear-eyed sense of what might be going on today in the staging areas surrounding Iraq, a view stripped of cant, hypocrisy, and the bloated lies of officialdom, read Jarhead."—Newsweek

"Without war there would be no war stories, and Jarhead is one of the best-loopy, stoned, its prose is like three heavy metal bands playing three separate songs at once. It honors the literature of men at arms."—New York Review of Books

About the Author

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications; his memoir Jarhead was a major New York Times bestseller, and the basis for the movie of the same name. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in the Hudson Valley, in New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455506737
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455506736
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Based on Hotels, Hospitals and Jails, his insecurities are not unfounded.
OldGrunt
Funny thing is, I actually picked up this pile of poop, but received 13 chapters of the very same punishment anyway.
Leery Jerry
This is a guy who is able to translate the human condition on the page in a clear and very well-written way.
Paul Cusack

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rob Tourtelot on June 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Hotels, Hospitals and Jails," Swofford's new memoir, is a thoroughly compelling read. It's brutally honest in its depiction of the author's readjustment to civilian life after combat, and amidst the trappings of professional success. Most of the book is set post-"Jarhead," but it occasionally dips back into the author's early childhood.

Swofford's father (also a combat veteran, and a strong, intimidating presence throughout most of his life) is dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The two Swofford men undertake several lengthy road trips in the elder Swofford's RV in an attempt to recover their father-son relationship while there's still time. It's a new battlefront now: rather than engaging an enemy in the desert, the enemy is within. Swofford struggles through self-destructive impulses, the death of his brother, and the impending death of a father he's frightened of becoming himself.

Swofford's writing is as crisp and emotionally unsparing as always. I tore through it in a single evening, staying up far too late because I couldn't bear to leave the book unfinished. It's a worthy follow-up to "Jarhead," and a must-read.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Leery Jerry on July 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jarhead was an amazing read. Hotels, Hospitals and Jails is very disappointing. If pressed to summarize the book I would say that it is the ramblings of a once promising writer with nothing important left to say -- garbage. Spoiled by the meteoric success of his first book, the writer wastes the reader's time by describing his life of effortless and meaningless sex (every woman seems to jump into his bed immediately), collapsed family and personal relationships, drug and alcohol binges, expensive toys and waste. Passages meant to be honest and disturbing(?) touching(?) poignant(?) are instead just pathetic or disgusting (Meaningless sex on the floor while a dying brother watches? A sister-in-law wanting to have sex immediately after his brother's funeral?). Really? And you needed to share? There are also paragraphs of gloat and braggadocio -- What cars he owns, how many bottles of expensive wines he has collected, where his real estate is located, where he jet sets, who he has had sex with... Who really cares? Though I opened it hopeful, I closed it with the sad realization that it contained not a single redeeming quality. It wasn't even written well. I am very disappointed in this from Anthony Swofford. I am even more disappointed that Sebastian Junger penned a cover endorsement for the book. As such jacket endorsements are compensated, I suspect that Mr. Junger never open the book. I doubt he would have knowingly offered his name otherwise.

There is one passage that is covered in excruciating detail -- When a child, the author is assigned a chore to pick up the dog feces that litters his back yard. Having missed a pile of puppy poop, the author's face is held very close to the dog excrement by his father as punishment for failing to have picked up the feces. Funny thing is, I actually picked up this pile of poop, but received 13 chapters of the very same punishment anyway. Very bad. Very sad. Buyer beware.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Greg Berg on June 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"jarhead" was a powerful memoir- and so is this, but in a very different way. Anthony Swofford's second memoir is a more directly personal work, focusing more than anything on his efforts to rebuild his fractured relationship with his troubled and occasionally abusive father- who himself is contending with the physical ravages of COPD. Swofford is unfailingly honest, and is not afraid to reveal his own failings and personal weaknesses - or his self-destructive addictions which lead him into a downward spiral from which he is fortunate to escape. There is also the heartbreaking story of Swofford's brother's death from cancer, about which the author writes with disarming honesty. It may sound like a relentlessly bleak story, but it's not; the fact that father and son are able to reconnect to some extent, despite all that has arisen between them, ultimately makes this a story of hope even when there are no easy answers to the terribly difficult questions at hand.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on August 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Some memoirs present reflections about extraordinary lives. Others describe struggles and provide insight into how setbacks and obstacles can be overcome. Anthony Swofford's latest memoir, Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails, tells readers about many of the recent bad choices he's made, and how close he came to losing touch with what's important. Much of the book involves his struggles with his father. His writing comes through as candid and blunt and with a critical introspection. Swofford's earlier memoir, Jarhead, showcased his fine writing style. While the writing here is good, I became fatigued in reading so many pages about his narcissistic life and the turmoil he created for himself and others. He ends on an up note, but the journey there may be enjoyed only by those readers whose taste tends toward schadenfreude.

Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By OldGrunt on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up at the airport and I regret the purchase. Mr. Swofford may be a talented writer -- Jarhead was truly exceptional. However, Hotels, Hopsitals and Jails is self-indulgent drivel. Though seemingly honest, this memoir seems to be nothing more than "his side of the story" with regard to long-standing family arguments and petty disagreements. Truthfully, it offers little more than Mr. Swofford's defensive, unapologetic and sometimes argumentative perspectives. To the positive (if there be a positive), it does tragically chronicle the guiltless admissions of a man who has behaved very badly -- women, alcohol, drugs, cars, money, family, excess and waste -- and who has been spoiled by the recognition and fame that came as a result of his first book. Suspecting he may be undeserving, Mr. Swofford seems to wrestle with the surprising and overwhelming success of that first book, Jarhead. Based on Hotels, Hospitals and Jails, his insecurities are not unfounded.
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