On Wednesday, November 19 the National Writers Series will host an event featuring acclaimed authors and Iraq War veterans Brian Turner and Brian Castner. Benjamin Busch author of the award-winning memoir, Dust to Dust as well as a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, will serve as the guest host for this event.
National Writers Series assistant director Cymbre Foster caught up with Benjamin Busch earlier this week to chat about topics for the evening as well as his promise to “leave no Brian left unturned” and more.
This is the final NWS event of 2014 and provides a unique opportunity to be part of a conversation between three veterans of war, however, promises Busch, it will not be depressing, “We are going to make the event fun. We’ll go into plenty of heavy territory, but it will be a happy evening.”
So Ben, it was your idea to bring Brian Castner and Brian Turner to the National Writers Series stage. Why?
They both served in Iraq, one in the Air Force as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer and the other an infantryman in the Army. I served there with the Marines and we all have memoirs that speak to the immense and the personal. I admire their powerful language and, off the page, they are also two of the funniest people I know. As America returns to Iraq, I thought it the perfect time to bring the three of us together to tell stories about writing and war, as well as everything that inspires and annoys us. It will be like a Veteran’s Seinfeld episode crossed with 60 Minutes.
If you think this evening is all about war—think again. Some of the topics you said that the three of you will be talking about are beards, bass playing, your memorial reforestation project, and how to tell a true story. You also promise to “make Brian Castner defuse something and make Brian Turner recite an 80s arena rock song as a serious poem.” Really??
Anyone who knows me can be certain that the night will be filled with the unexpected. Brian Castner’s book is being produced as an off-Broadway opera. I can’t possibly leave that alone. Brian Turner is a poet who secretly plays in a rock band. He will be exposed. And, though they are both serious writers with stunning books, they’re both friends so nothing is sacred. I will leave no Brian left unturned.
A Matter of Honor is an active Traverse City-based nonprofit formed to educate and promote public awareness regarding service related Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), something that has and will continue to have an impact on our society. They just hosted a day-long conference on the topic. Will you three be talking about the long cost of combat?
Absolutely. In fact, Brian Castner’s book is much about exactly that and Brian Turner’s book follows the path from the romance of tradition to the bullets and beyond. Both of their books speak to the veteran who is trying to find their way home and to the families who are trying to welcome them back.
Brian Castner talks about “the Crazy” after he came home. Do you think all veterans live with or deal with their version of this? Does it help to have a sense of humor?
Many veterans carry a heavy book of witness to the darkest side of humanity, but everyone negotiates their life afterward differently. Humor has always been a way to wander through tragedy and survive it, and we’ll speak to that with moments you wouldn’t expect to find under such tension.
A book critic wrote that humans are a species beleaguered by a terrible attachment to war. That must be why we read war memoirs with such fascination and horror. You three have written with such candor and honesty in your memoirs, what was your purpose? Would Brian and Brian agree?
War has long been braided into the human experience, even in those who have not marched to it. Our politics result in it and, because they are national events for Americans, war is a national responsibility that somehow rarely has a visceral reach into civilian life. So the stories that are etched from combat by veterans are attempts to share what we have seen with those who lived other lives while we were gone. Writing is also a way to articulate larger ideas that connect all of us to war experience, and give everyone new eyes on life. It is not exclusive testimony, but very inclusive, everyone’s stories equal in importance to our human narrative.