Review Of The Iconoclast Goes To Sea
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/24/06
One of the things I’m proudest of in regards to Cosmoetica is that I’ve never been a snob in regards to art. Whether or nor someone is famous, lauded, or not has no bearing on how I view the art in front of me. This has led me to some great poetry- the works of James A. Emanuel and Judith Wright, some odd films- The God Who Wasn’t There, and some interesting memoirs, even if self-published- Elliott Rais’s Stealing The Borders, about growing up in Soviet Union during the Second World War while avoiding the Nazis, and Eddie Stimpson, Jr.’s My Remembers, about growing up sharecropping in Texas during the Great Depression.
In that same vein I want to briefly review another self published memoir called The Iconoclast Goes To Sea- Dilemma In Blues, by Jack DeBar Smith. It was released from the subsidy press called Dorrance Publishing, in 1998, and my even becoming aware of the book is an interesting enough tale. I was working, a few months ago, at a job for a company that publishes alumni directories for schools, universities, fraternal organizations, and the military, when, while answering a call about one of the U.S. Navy’s membership organizations (I believe it was the Navy League, not the U.S. Naval Institute), I came into contact with Mr. Smith, a retired insurance agent, and graduate of USC (Class of 1948), who was a pleasure to speak with, and he regaled me with tales of his Navy career during World War Two. In the course of the conversation about his career, he informed me about several of the books he’d written, including The Iconoclast Goes To Sea. So, a few weeks ago I ordered the book online.
Interestingly enough, the book I received had Mr. Smith’s autographed message to someone in it- none other than Right Wing cable tv news personality Bill O’Reilly. The inscription reads thus:
To: “No Spin” Bill O’Reilly who saved the cable news for some truth, by not being just a “talking head.” Keep up your good work.
God Bless America.
Jack DeBar Smith
This book is my own “no spin zone” on our great Navy.
Apparently, Mr. O’Reilly did not find the book such a good read, for he must have sold it back to the used book shop that sold it to me. That said, the book is a good read, although one expecting to find heroic war stories of derring do will be disappointed, for the 140 page book focuses mostly on Smith’s time preparing for service in the Navy, aboard the USS Antietam, CV36. In it, the reader is taken through the many stages of preparation, and the different towns and states Smith and his buddies- aka ‘swabbies’- trained in.
This is a unique approach, for it chronicles a part of history often forgotten. It also reminded me of the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, which takes place on the Marine training base of Parris Island, rather than in Vietnam. Smith also uses colloquialism of that time, as well of his own invention, and this eases the reader into a different world, unlike the typical MFA style of writing where the writer could be anyone for his or her style is so generic. In short, Smith’s writing style is unmistakably his own. He comes across as a real person, and a bit of a character. But that’s a very good thing, especially in this deliterate day and age.
One can find out more about him by going to the website mentioned in his nod to O’Reilly, or by visiting http://www.iconoclasts.com/. However, the best way to get to understand a bit of Smith’s world is by reading his book. The book’s Foreword contains this warning, so to speak, and gives a good indication of Smith’s approach to writing and life:
As I read that ending I wondered if, in fifty years or so, there will be another such book written by a serviceman now in Iraq or Afghanistan, who will be thinking the same thing, and wondering why we were not prepared on 9/11/01, with so much warning. Nonetheless, for anyone in an interest in another small piece of history, from a generation that will not be around much longer, I urge you to visit Smith’s websites, and perhaps buy his book. Is it a great piece of literature? No. But it is a very good read, in that same way that fables and myths are good reads, and that’s far more than anyone can honestly say about the vast majority of crap that gets published and feted these days. Stay proud, swabbie!
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