The Long Walk Eod Book \/\/TOP\\\\
A Conversation with Brian Castner, Author of The Long WalkWhen did you first realize you wanted to get your experiences in combat and with PTSD down on paper? Had you written before? I had written a little before, and in retrospect, I'm amazed it took me so long to realize that putting down my experience might help me deal with my mental health issues. Perhaps that says something about the depth of the hole one finds oneself in, when trying to understand such a confusing and uncontrollable process. So in high school I wanted to be a writer, but I left that behind when I went to college to be an engineer for the Air Force. I wrote a little piece for Newsweek when I was getting out of the military, for their My Turn column they used to run. But it was only at my therapist's urging that I started writing notes when the Crazy episodes got so bad, and it took me several months of furious scribbling to realize I had the start of a book other people might want to read. Did you keep a journal while you were in Iraq or after you came home? I did keep a journal, but sporadically, and I always felt guilty that I didn't write more. My grandfather kept a journal on his march to Berlin in World War II, and I felt like I wanted to be able to give a similar thing to my own grandchildren. But I put it aside after I got back from Iraq the second time, and didn't open it up again until I was nearly done writing the book.Did you read other war memoirs (Jarhead, for instance) either before you went over to Iraq or once you came home? How did those books inform—or not inform—your own writing? I am a big reader, and for a long time I only read military related books - my wife called it my War Shelf. I read Jarhead when it was released in 2003, and it struck a chord with me because it felt like my own experience in the Middle East. That was before I went to Iraq, and I had spent my time in Saudi Arabia mostly waiting for something to happen, much like Swofford. I didn't want my memoir to be subconsciously too informed or over-influenced by anyone else's, so I took a break from "war books" while I wrote mine. Since, I've read more, caught up a bit you could say, and find kinship more with Vietnam memoirs - O'Brien's The Things They Carried obviously, but also Larry Heinneman's Paco's Story and Haldeman's Forever War, which is a Vietnam book if there ever was one - than more modern examples. The exception is Junger's War. I am so grateful I only read it after I was done with the edits on my own book. It is so well crafted and definitive, I might never have started writing my book if I had read it first.One of many remarkable aspects of your book is how riveting your descriptions of your PTSD are, literally taking the reader inside your heart and mind as you were experiencing it. How difficult was it for you to go back to that place, essentially experiencing those feelings again for the second time? I experienced those feelings continuously while writing the book anyway, so I wasn't diving back in. Some of the events in the book, such as my son's hockey game, didn't even occur until I was three quarters of the way through writing the first draft. I was living the stories, it was my every day reality, so writing it or not was all the same, emotionally. In the book, running and yoga were among the activities that helped you heal—both in body and mind. How important are those activities to you today? Very important. I run about 15-18 miles a week. I do yoga every week. If I don't do either for a week or two at a time, I feel myself getting itchy, old feelings creep back in. I know my daily framework is fragile, and many veterans go through good and bad times, so I an diligent about the regular maintenance. It's just a part of my life now. It's how I'm built. Has your wife read the book? Will you share the book with your sons once they are old enough to appreciate it? I wouldn't let me wife read the book until I had an agent and we had sold it to Doubleday. She knew I was writing it obviously, but I didn't share it because I couldn't take it if she didn't like it. I was writing something so personal, any critique of the book would have been a critique of me, and our marriage (not to mention my mental state) wasn't in a strong enough place to handle that. She eventually read it in one sitting, and we had a long talk afterwards. In the later edits, we added just a little bit more of her to the book. I was uncomfortable speaking for her, or putting words in her mouth, so I avoided that until almost the very end.I will let my sons read it, but not until they are much older. I don't know exactly when. But my motivation for writing the book, before I had an agent or publisher or let myself consider such wide distribution, was always to write the book for them, and if I never sold a single copy, I told myself I'd print one out and put it on the shelf and save it for them for later, to be able to point to it, and share it, and say "this is why Dad is the way he is, and acted like he did when you were younger."What's next for you? I'd like to be a writer. I'm working on a new book now, related but distinct. I feel tremendously lucky and grateful that the sum of my life experiences have led me to a place where I could write one story that is meaningful to a variety of readers, and that if I work hard I might get another shot to do it again.Who have you discovered lately? I have rediscovered Mick Cochrane, a fellow Buffalonian and the author of several books, including his latest, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies. I have only met him recently, but he is an extremely gracious and encouraging man, and has become a fantastic mentor to me in a very short period of time. I just finished Flesh Wounds, his first novel, and it has a lot to teach a young writer about expressing emotional truth in an honest, non-gimmicky sort of way. Every page is pitch perfect and just feels right.
The Long Walk Eod Book
01/01/2016As the head of a unit responsible for advance disarming of bombs and IEDs, Caster would sometimes be called upon to take "the long walk" to disarm a device manually when technology failed. As well as describing combat, the book also masterfully portrays the struggle many soldiers encounter for peace and sanity after returning home.
"The first thing you should know about me is that I'm Crazy." So begins this affecting tale of a modern war and its home-front consequences. The capitalization is deliberate, for by debut author and combat veteran Castner's account, that Crazy is something like another person lying inside, more than a shadow within, something that can be neither stilled nor exorcised. The ordinary-Joe author found himself as a volunteer Army officer in Iraq--and not just a soldier, but one with the very special job of disarming bombs. It's a business of acronyms, EFP (explosively formed projectile) being a particularly dreaded one. "EFP's are real bad," writes Castner. "They take off legs and heads, put holes in armor and engine blocks, and our bosses in Baghdad and Washington want every one we find." Given that demand, a dangerous job becomes even more dangerous, and the "long walk"--the one an explosives disposal expert takes toward the bomb and the task of denaturing it--becomes ever longer. It's an assembly-line sort of job, one of "stamping machines" and "broken widgets," in which a single mistake means being vaporized. For Castner, there were no good days. Most days were a blend of boredom and terror, with some more terrifying than others, as with the "Day of Six VBIEDs"--i.e., six very nasty car bombs within 15 minutes. That's the kind of thing that can wear on a person, to say nothing of the sound of small-arms fire, mortars, bombs and artillery. All of this fed the Crazy, whose "spidery fingers take the top of my head off to eat my brain and heart from the inside out every night." And the Crazy turns out to be very real, on the way to the dread thing called TBI, traumatic brain injury, which all that exploding ordinance spawns just as surely as cigarette smoking gives way to emphysema. Scarifying stuff, without any mawkishness or dumb machismo--not quite on the level of Jarhead, but absolutely worth reading.
Music by Jeremy Howard BeckLibretto by Stephanie FleischmannBased on the book The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian CastnerCommissioned by American Lyric Theater
Lead Funding for the world premiere of The Long Walk has been provided by The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and New Music USA. To follow updates about The Long Walk, visit -long-walk-world-premiere-3/.
What makes Castner such a compelling voice is not just his truthfulness, which can be harrowing, but also that his writing is so good. Consider this account of the persistence of war memory, in which he bookends the stark clarity of images from the start of each EOD call with the fragile and fading memory of his children.
To experience first-hand joyful discovery in natural spaces is a wonder to be celebrated. Maintaining both the spaces and their joyful discovery requires creativity and engagement from a wide-range of stakeholders. During the three-hour, interactive, discussion-oriented forum, Fredonia students, faculty, staff and members of our broader communities will be engaged in conversations about the joy of discovery with practitioners from a wide range of disciplines. This interdisciplinary workshop will feature speakers from the Departments of Biology, Curriculum & Instruction, Art & New Media, English and FSA, and off-campus speakers from Roger Tory Peterson Institute and Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York, and an independent forester. Speakers will facilitate conversations about how and why we can act in support of our natural spaces and how we can participate in local conversations to maintain them. Educators can learn about how natural area experiences can be integrated into their curricula to ensure future generations of students opportunities for ongoing discovery. Participants with an interest in outdoor education, conservation, natural areas, and sustainability will benefit from the opportunity to learn alongside these experts and participants. At the end of the Convocation a van will take participants out to the College Lodge to explore the little known eastern section of the preserve.