Customer Reviews ()
Jim Bennett from KBR. social commentary, insight, war and humanity in 89 poems. As always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the real stuff, Beck’s work. As he often does, Beck ambushes you in the first poem, Change of Life. Social injustice is a common theme and Beck handles it very well. If you’ve ever wondered what military life was like, turn to Shore Leave. On the other hand, the USA isn’t perfect either, as you will find out at the end of Combat Zone. Beck can be didactic, as you will find in the nine poems titled Protest I through IX. You will be exposed to thought-provoking opinions of the protestors and to events, not all pleasant, that happens there. That bad things happen to good people is exposed in Housing Crisis, where we find this: “...told me through tears /the bank foreclosed our house /while I was in Afghanistan /bringing democracy to tribesmen /who lost their homes in battle ....” Again, the effect that war has on veterans is exposed in Discharged, which ends thus: “but the tour survived, /welcomed by loved ones /who don't understand /why they miss their rifles.” If you’ve ever had doubts about the effectiveness of the United Nations, turn to September Song. I can not give you the sharpness of this piece in a short quote. Get the book and read this one. Beck explores the human condition in Options. Spoiler alert: this is the entire short poem: “Redundancy /offers protection /from unexpected failure, /highly desirable /for electronic networks, /mechanical systems, /never practical /in human relations.” The risks of technologically addicted young people is made clear in Unready. I’ll bet you can guess a bit of what this poem has to tell you. For a cynical experience, comparing what war used to be like with what it is like now, turn to Fringe Benefits. Beck can be brief and powerful, exposing city life in Passengers. This poem is too short to quote (I try only to do one spoiler alert per review.) Now for the star count boilerplate. As you can see, I found several favourites in this volume, and there are lots more for a reader to choose from. So how do I come up with four stars? My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. To this curmudgeon, four stars feels about right. Strongly recommended. Your personal rating may well be higher.
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