Swans Commentary » swans.com May 22, 2006  



Stan Goff's Sex & War


by William T. Hathaway


Book Review



Goff, Stan: Sex & War. Publisher: Stan Goff at Lulu Press, 2006, ISBN 1-4116-4380-2, 206 pages, $13.66 (paperback)


(Swans - May 22, 2006)  Stan Goff was the ultimate warrior, a combat-hardened member of the Rangers, Special Forces, and Delta Force. His conscience proved stronger than his military indoctrination, however, and he quit and turned against the state's institution of terror. Once outside it, he devoted himself to understanding the social and psycho-sexual roots of organized violence. Sex & War is his third and most ambitious book on this topic.

The book is constructed as a mosaic, and that's a difficult art form. Each piece needs to have its own discrete integrity, and it also needs to fit together with the others into a whole.

Stan Goff has mastered this technique. Sex & War is written in riffs and blips, in shards, with lots of edges. Some English comp instructors would give it a D for organization, but this seems the right form for this topic in our fragmented times. When the reader pulls back from the pieces, the overall pattern emerges. The book has two perspectives: in your face and off the wall.

Goff writes often with grace, always with energy, and almost always with clarity, but his zest for theory sometimes propels him into convoluted, abstract sentences that require a second reading to spring forth the meaning, but the backpedaling is worthwhile.

He flashes from vivid descriptions of his military operations, to related stories of the plight of women forced to live under patriarchal militarism, to insightful renderings of the stunted psyches of warriors, to Marxist analysis of the United States' violent drive for hegemony, then he connects us to the work of other writers on these issues, thus extending the discussion out in many directions.

He gives us insider reports on the military mentality that make clear the inevitability of atrocities. Then, in a synaptic leap, he shows that the abuse of women is a similar syndrome but much more widespread throughout society. In his portrait of a Delta Force friend turned rapist, we see how rape in all its varieties is a mainstay of patriarchy as a whole, not just its military branch.

Goff was a medic, among other things, in the Special Forces. Now he emerges as a diagnostician of the pandemic pathology of our culture. And like a good medic, he has suggestions for curing us of this disease of sexualized violence.

Sex & War is both a personal and an analytical tour de force. It's a book that only Stan Goff could write, and I'm very glad he did.


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Goff, Stan: Sex & War. Publisher: Stan Goff at Lulu Press, 2006, ISBN 1-4116-4380-2, 206 pages, $13.66 (paperback). The book is available directly from Lulu Press.


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About the Author

William T. Hathaway's first novel, A World Of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award, and his second, Summer Now, has just been published by Avatar Publication. It is set now amidst the war on terrorism as a US warrior falls in love with a Sufi Muslim and learns from her an alternative to the military mentality. (The first chapter is on the publisher's website, avatarpublication.com.) His writing has been published in over 40 periodicals and he wrote the introduction to America Speaks Out: Collected Essays from Dissident Writers. Hathaway is a former Fulbright professor of English and creative writing at universities in Germany. He lives in Oldenburg, Germany.



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Published May 22, 2006