Anthony Swofford Exit A: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743270397

Exit A: A Novel

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9780743270397: Exit A: A Novel

Anthony Swofford follows his international best-seller Jarhead with an unforgettable first novel -- a powerful story about a youth spent on a U.S. air base in Japan and the gritty neon streets just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks and a rebellious young girl finds herself in great danger........

Seventeen-year-old Severin Boxx, an earnest, muscular high-school-football star, lives on an American air force base on the outskirts of Tokyo. Severin is mad for Virginia Kindwall, the base general's daughter, who is a hafu -- half American and half Japanese. Beautiful, smart, and utterly defiant of her father, Virginia has become a petty criminal in the Japanese underground.

Severin is soon caught up in Virginia's world, and together they drift through the mad neon landscape outside the walls of the base, near the busy Haijima rail station, a place of movement, anonymity, and sudden disappearance. Exit A is one of its many shadowy doorways. Severin and Virginia fall into trouble way over their heads and are soon subjected to the enormous, unforgiving tensions between America and Japan. Years later, Severin and Virginia remain lost to each other, until an emotionally frayed, thirty- something Severin embarks on a quest to find Virginia -- and the part of himself taken from him when his boyhood abruptly ended.

Darkly irreverent, frankly erotic, at once suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming, Swofford's Exit A builds inexorably toward a climax as it audaciously plumbs the legacies of war, the wish for redemption, and the danger of love..........

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Anthony Swofford served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught at the University of Iowa and Lewis and Clark College. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, Men's Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient, he lives in New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

This boy is an American, born on the third of July, 1972. While his mother spat and screamed through the life-endangering birth, his father and the orderlies and janitors lit illegal fireworks in the hospital parking lot. The men drank from bottles of bourbon and beer while leaning down to light Bottle Rockets and Flaming Marys and Wailing Jennys. His father supplied the armament and the devil's milk, and the matches, and most of the boisterous ranting and raving about God and Country and the Founding Fathers and the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock and the Salem witch trials and the Red Threat, that ungainly, bloody bear from the East.

The doctor held the boy upside down, and the safety of the womb became history. The room above the mother spun one hundred times, and she went under.

No one found the father, not even the orderly sent to look. So they slapped the boy's bottom and placed him in a crib, where he waited for someone with his same blood to come to consciousness. His aunt Mirtha was the first to appear at the hospital, and after cursing the father's name, she picked up the boy and performed an auntly show for him, baby talk and ego stroking and burp and bowel sounds. Because his aunt was present and cogent, and the nurses wanted to get down to the parade grounds for the base general's midnight fireworks display, they asked her to name the boy, and she did. This boy's name is Severin Boxx.

This girl's name is Virginia Sachiko Kindwall. She is the daughter of General Oliver Kindwall and Mrs. Oliver Kindwall, once known as Olive, though that was not her given name but simply a shortening of her husband's. Her given name was Nakashima Sachiko. Olive died on the birthing table at Travis Air Force Base in California, in July 1972. While she died giving birth to Virginia Sachiko, her husband, a major at the time, paced the base morgue while overseeing the identification and shipment home of the newest dead boys from Vietnam, some of the last. Later, Kindwall would tell his daughter that on the day of her mother's death and her own birth, the dead boys from Vietnam seemed much more dead than usual. He spent that night wide awake with his back ramrod straight, flat against the gray concrete floor of the hospital morgue, while his daughter, a few buildings away, slept with other military babies, some born to mothers whose husbands had died in Vietnam.

The maternity nurses that night paid extra attention to Baby Kindwall, Baby and not yet Virginia Sachiko Kindwall, because her father had been too distraught to remember what name he and his deceased wife had decided to call the child if the ball of love entered the world as a girl. The nurses rocked Baby Kindwall in their laps and called her "sweetheart" and "precious" and "lamb," and the nurses wept and cursed God and Vietnam, as they did every night.

On the floor of the hospital morgue, Kindwall dreamed of his wife in twenty years, in a church dressing room, preparing their daughter for marriage. The women's faces were made of shattered glass, and they could not find the wedding dress, so the daughter decided to be married in the nude. The dream ended with Kindwall walking his naked daughter up the church aisle, but the altar was absent priest and groom. Flames shot from the tabernacle. Kindwall awoke in the morning without recalling the dream.

The next day he volunteered for his third tour in Vietnam.

The day he left, he noticed a yellow piece of paper affixed to the refrigerator door with a watermelon-shaped magnet, these words written on it in his wife's penmanship: Girl=Virginia Sachiko. So his daughter had a name now, but no mother, and a father back at war.

Copyright 2007 by Anthony Swofford

ONE

Severin Boxx rode home from football practice in the back of Coach Kindwall's van. In the front passenger seat, the coach's daughter applied a French manicure to her nails. The coach was also the base general of Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Severin's father's boss. These facts made Virginia Sachiko Kindwall untouchable and even more desirable than had she been a sergeant's daughter. Severin didn't wish to cause trouble for his father, and he intended to start the remainder of the season as outside linebacker, but he also wanted five minutes alone with Virginia, five minutes to speak in a calm and controlled voice, to practice his Japanese with her, five minutes at a ramen shop, slurping their noodles, laughter, together. The back of the van smelled of pigskin and wet gridiron and the still sweet sweat of boys. In a year or maybe in months, the boys Severin's age would begin to sweat like men, and stink like men, and maybe even suffer and want and love like men. But for now they were boys.

The van passed the flight line and the jet-fueled, mind-blowing birds of human prey. In the dark the planes looked harmless, like linked parts of a playground that young children might scamper on and under. But Severin knew, because his father had told him, that within twenty minutes General Kindwall could strike North Korea with a rain of bombs and fire more effective and impressive than ever unleashed before. All of this firepower idled within a half mile of the football field and two miles of Severin's front door.

Severin stared at Virginia's profile and felt his desire for her flush his face and his chest. Coach was talking about the power of the linebacker blitz, but Severin ignored him and stared at Virginia's beautiful nose and lips and the wisps of hair that floated above her head like strands of God. The car arrived at Severin's house in the officers' suburb of the base, and Severin jumped out with his gear in both hands and said good-bye to Coach and his daughter. He could barely pronounce her name.

"Hold up, Severin," Kindwall said. He put the van in park and walked around the front of the vehicle and faced Severin. Kindwall was a massive man, six foot four, over 250 pounds. The general's face looked as though two pit bulls had played catch with it. His scars were from his third tour in Vietnam. A bouncing Betty made from ball bearings and gunpowder had rendered his face a combat zone. The general's carriage invoked the competing sensations of victory and humiliation. Severin knew the general could use rhetoric to turn breakfast into Pershing's European campaign.

Kindwall stooped and aligned his eyes with Severin's. "Tomorrow we will win a football game. It is all a part of the march of history. Only a few names are remembered in the end, only a few names make it into the great score sheet of history. Eat right, sleep well, and hit hard."

"Yes, sir," Severin said.

Kindwall grabbed the back of Severin's head and pulled him into the crook of his arm and, with his other hand, vigorously slapped the boy on the back. Virginia looked at Severin as though to apologize for her father's historicized, militarized vision of everything, even a hug. She blew Severin a kiss.

He nervously extracted himself from Kindwall's embrace.

Inside, Severin's dinner waited on the Formica kitchen counter. From the mudroom, he eyed the plate and guessed that it was chicken-fried steak and potatoes. His dad liked chicken-fried steak, and Dad was home from somewhere in the world -- Taiwan, Diego Garcia, Turkey? -- so they would eat chicken-fried steak. And his mother would drink less coffee, and her girlfriends, the mothers of his friends, would not hang around as late at night complaining about their absent husbands.

Severin stood at the counter and ate, wearing his grass- and mud-colored football pants and a half-shirt stained with sweat and winning. He was not tall, five foot eight, but he carried a solidly muscled 175 pounds. An admiring coach from an opposing team once said, after Severin had clobbered his quarterback ten yards behind the line of scrimmage, "That kid is made of bricks." His sweaty bangs fell across his brow and into his blue eyes. His eyebrows, dark black like his hair, grew in an arched pattern that gave his face a constant look of youthful surprise. His nose was thin and straight, and his thin lips pulsed cranberry red. He looked his age, seventeen. He felt younger. He needed to prove something.

His mouth bulged with steak and potatoes and gravy, and he breathed riotously through his nose. Mrs. Boxx entered the kitchen. "How many times must I tell you to shower before you eat? It smells like the fifty-yard line in here. And please sit at the table."

He swallowed hard. "Sorry, Mom. I'm hungry after practice. I can't wait." He fell into a chair at the kitchen table.

"I make your father shower when he comes in from the flight line. Are you suddenly the power around here?" She tousled his sweaty hair and then smelled her hand, her son.

"What's for dessert? Cookies? Ice cream? Both?" He turned his face toward her with an expectant smile.

"Pistachio ice cream," she said after a quick survey of the freezer.

"That stuff is nasty. How about some green-tea ice cream?"

"Your father doesn't like it. Too Japanese for him."

"But we're in Japan! Dad! We are in Japan!" he yelled toward the living room. "Eat the ice cream!" Severin was truly angry. His father preferred a teriyaki burger from McDonald's to a bowl of ramen.

"Your father is asleep. Jet lag. How does a pilot get jet lag?" She sat down next to her son.

Severin briskly stirred his potatoes and gravy. "When is he leaving again? Midnight? He's always gone. He never sees my games."

"How's the team looking?"

Severin dropped his fork and it rang against his plate like a bell. "Practice sucked. He ran us through two extra cycles of calisthenics. But he gave me a ride home."

"He must be stressed out over the accident this morning."

"What accident?" Severin hadn't heard of an accident.

"A troop transport truck ran over and killed Yoshida's son, riding his bicycle home from school. It's horrible. The driver didn't even know it happened until he got to the front gate and an MP stopped the truck because a bent bicycle wheel was hanging from the bumper." Mrs. Boxx shook her head.

"Yoshida, like Yoshida Electronics?" Severin's eyes pleaded with his mothe...

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Book Description Scribner Book Company, United States, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 203 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Anthony Swofford follows his international best-seller Jarhead with an unforgettable first novel -- a powerful story about a youth spent on a U.S. air base in Japan and the gritty neon streets just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks and a rebellious young girl finds herself in great danger. Seventeen-year-old Severin Boxx, an earnest, muscular high-school-football star, lives on an American air force base on the outskirts of Tokyo. Severin is mad for Virginia Kindwall, the base general s daughter, who is a hafu -- half American and half Japanese. Beautiful, smart, and utterly defiant of her father, Virginia has become a petty criminal in the Japanese underground. Severin is soon caught up in Virginia s world, and together they drift through the mad neon landscape outside the walls of the base, near the busy Haijima rail station, a place of movement, anonymity, and sudden disappearance. Exit A is one of its many shadowy doorways. Severin and Virginia fall into trouble way over their heads and are soon subjected to the enormous, unforgiving tensions between America and Japan. Years later, Severin and Virginia remain lost to each other, until an emotionally frayed, thirty- something Severin embarks on a quest to find Virginia -- and the part of himself taken from him when his boyhood abruptly ended. Darkly irreverent, frankly erotic, at once suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming, Swofford s Exit A builds inexorably toward a climax as it audaciously plumbs the legacies of war, the wish for redemption, and the danger of love. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780743270397

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