Ooligan Press released its latest work The Wax Bullet War: Chronicles of a Soldier& Artist by Sean Davis. The book is a memoir of a soldier, an artist and most importantly a human being. It is a deeply personal account of his experiences at war and the difficulties he faced in coming home after surviving the horrors of war.
Davis, a graduate of Portland State, is an artist and writer who serves as an adjunct writing teacher for local Portland colleges. He seized the attention of the staff at Ooligan Press with his thoroughly compelling and personal account of war.
“Sean Davis is a real-deal writer,” said Per Henningsgaard, assistant professor at PSU and director of publishing at Ooligan Press. “He isn’t just some guy who did something incredible and then afterward figured he could write a story about it and make a few bucks. He’s a writer and artist who just so happens to have lived an awe inspiring, heartbreaking, thoroughly compelling life.”
The idea to write such a personal and deeply emotional memoir came from a desire to remind people that soldiers, at the end of the day, are people just like everyone else, Davis said.
Not a war book
“I didn’t want this to be a war book,” Davis said. “I wanted it to be a book of a regular person living through a war because I wanted it to be relatable to everyone.”
It is this every-man quality that is at the heart of The Wax Bullet War. The memoir strives to convey the raw and visceral reality of war as it is, never weighing itself down with unnecessary politics or needless speculation.
“[Davis] gives us a relatable, personal look at a war that we so often see only through sensationalized headlines and statistics. His story forces us to consider things in a more nuanced way,” said Laurel Boruck, Ooligan Press project manager for the book.
The memoir examines war on a deeply personal level that serves as a staunch reminder of just how human our soldiers really are.
“I think a large part of what makes this book so powerful is that we are not accustomed to seeing war through the eyes of an artist,” Henningsgaard said. “It’s a different portrait of war and its aftermath, which is very much shaped by Sean’s identity as both soldier and artist.”
Looking with fresh eyes
“We equate art with beauty, but I think a lot of the best art takes something dark and difficult and makes it beautiful. And in the same way, we so often equate war with chaos and death and destruction, without considering the ways that life and beauty also exist alongside and within the same space,” Boruck said. “Davis’ story asks us to abandon our preconceived notions and to look at things with fresh eyes.”
Davis’ desire for readers to look at the reality of war with fresh eyes extends to society’s treatment of the many men and women in service who come home only to find it difficult to acclimate to the lives they once lived.
Davis makes it a point to voice his disdain for the inherently holistic mentality associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the careless manner in which the term is so often used to diagnose returning soldiers.
“I hate the term PTSD. I hate it. It’s impersonal and it’s been used so much that it’s lost any meaning,” Davis said. “We were ordinary people who were asked to do extraordinary—and many times violent—acts. It has been documented from the beginning of time: Men and women who have fought in combat have always had issues when transitioning back into the society they fought for. When we lump those issues into one heartless acronym, we are doing our best and brightest a disservice.”
Davis also takes issue with the impersonal glorification of returning war vets and the constant “hero” treatment.
“Too often when any soldier comes back they somehow gain a sort of permanent hero status. There is a level of respect I have for everyone who’s raised their right hand and took the vow, and I love the fact that society supports the troops, but we’re not all heroes. The word is overused,” Davis said.
“Please don’t misunderstand. I believe reminding the public that we are only human shows that we can make mistakes, but we also do amazing things. In the book I write about some very embarrassing true scenes. Self-destructive behavior is a common mistake. On the flip side, when people see a soldier as a regular person choosing to run while under direct fire to help a wounded brother in the middle of a violent ambush like my good friend Shane Ward did for me, well, that shows the amazing potential a human being has for courage.”
The staff at Ooligan Press wish for readers to allow The Wax Bullet War to speak to them on a personal level and defy many of their preconceptions on the subject.
“More than anything, I hope that people will let this book challenge them, and I hope that it will start many good and necessary conversations,” Boruck said.
“When a person is labeled a hero you expect them to do heroic things and that somehow takes away some of the awe we should have for the heroic act,” Davis said.
“When you read about a regular person doing something amazing it should move you, maybe even bring you to tears, the same when you see a person—and not some damaged soldier—suffering.”
The Wax Bullet War is available for purchase through Powell’s, Amazon and other retailers.