Anthony Swofford

Whatever happened to that Jarhead guy, Anthony Swofford, after the success of his 2003 Gulf War memoir and the subsequent 2005 movie? Well, he admits, there was an unsuccessful stab at a novel, a lot of women, plenty of cheating on women ("I was a Zen master at infidelity"), much drinking, and a fair amount of drugs. Swofford is unsparing about his shortcomings in his new memoir Hotels, Hospitals and Jails (Twelve, $26.99), but he's not really its main subject. Instead it's the testy relationship he has with his dad, a Vietnam War vet slowly succumbing to lung failure, that drives the book forward. Not all of it is good; Swofford is often grasping with his prose, but then he'll turn around and mock his Hemingway tendencies. Hotels is anecdotal, almost a little black book, but it feels heartfelt and honest. Some vignettes, like drunk driving his BMW into a tree, stand on their own as short stories. Even better is the account of how his grandparents met in '40s Alabama. Later, Swofford writes, "My father built a roof of shame for his family to live under." In place of the shooting war he missed in the first Gulf War, he gets an ongoing war with his pa, starting in childhood and lasting through his hard-living 30s. And when the two pack into a Winnebago ("the truth machine") for road trips together, you can guess their destination: Reconciliation, 271 pages ahead. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., June 20, 7:30 p.m., 2012

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