Friday, January 6, 2012

High and Tight: Absolutely American

Once again I have no idea how this book wondered into my TBR list, but I found David Lipsky's Absolutely American engrossing.  Lipsky spent four years embedded into West Point, watching the kids in their classes, training, and career planning.  His last year included the 9/11 attacks, which put everything the cadets did into a vivid reminder of the reason the country has military academies.

Lipsky focuses both on superior and lagging examples of West Point virtues.  The worst one spends four years dancing on the edge of dismissal, coming within seconds of failing various physical tests and never moving much past probation in academics.  The only lesson he seems to absorb into his bones is the creed that a cadet never gives up, although the various officers who practically beg him to resign don't see the benefit of that.  Meanwhile other cadets also wrestle with the meaning of duty, of what it means to commit to the army, of whether they are trading a free education for five years of duty or whether they intend a lifetime of service.

I wouldn't have made it a week at West Point, so it's an alien world that I'll only see through a writer's eyes, and Lipsky's descriptions made it seem vivid and clear.  He also seemed to keep himself out of the way more; he reported on kids who never doubted that their lives belonged in the military and on people clearly there for the career opportunities and cheap education with equal respect.  This contrasted with Army 101, where the author never seemed to get past his bemusement that anyone could choose the military for any reason other than to escape a gun-torn ghetto.

1 comment:

Laurisa White Reyes said...

My son would love this book. He's 14 about to join the Young Marines. He loves everything military. Thanks for sharing it! - Laurisa White Reyes, author of The Rock of Ivanore