A haunting tale of sons without fathers, and selections from Operation Homecoming, in which American soldiers fighting in the Middle East recount their experiences in fiction, poems, memoirs, and letters.
"Black bags grew beneath the eyes of the sons and daughters and wives of Crow. Their shoulders stooped, wrinkles enclosing their mouths like parentheses. Our fathers haunted us. They were everywhere.
--Benjamin Percy, “Refresh, Refresh”
A haunting tale of sons without fathers, and selections from "Operation Homecoming," in which American soldiers fighting in the Middle East recount their experiences in fiction, poems, memoirs, and letters.
Benjamin Percy’s wrenching story “Refresh, Refresh” was chosen as a Best American Short Story of 2006, appearing in the Houghton Mifflin volume of that name, and our annual program honoring some of each year’s choices. Young men adrift in the harsh Oregon countryside lose their social and emotional bearings when their reservist fathers are called to active duty in Iraq.
The story includes some strong language and sexual situations—markers of the tough and lonely rite of passage undergone by fatherless young men.
Percy is the author of the short story collection "The Language of Elk" and his collection "Refresh, Refresh" is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. He has also published in The Paris Review
and Glimmer Train
, among other journals. He took some time out from teaching at Marquette University and raising a young son to talk about his story with host Isaiah Sheffer; that interview can be heard after the reading. “Refresh, Refresh” is read by Ted Marcoux, who has appeared in such movies as "Dark Blue," "Camp Stories," and "Ghost in the Machine." His stage credits include "A Few Good Men" on Broadway, and off-Broadway appearances in "The Bells" and "Earth and Sky." His many television credits include stints on "Law & Order," "Boston Public" and "24."
It seemed natural to partner Percy’s story of the cost of the war on the home front with more works drawn from the remarkable volume "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families," which we have featured previously this SHORTS season. Published by Random House, and edited by Andrew Carroll, the book is the result of hundreds of writing workshops conducted with soldiers all over the globe. The writing project was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.
This program’s selections include three poems —“Buzz Saw” by Billie Hill-Hunt and “Ashbah” (a transliteration of the Arabic word for “ghosts”) and “The Baghdad Zoo” by Sergeant Brian Turner — and a short memoir of a long return home by Sergeant Michael A. Thomas, “3 A.M. in Bangor, Maine.” The readers are Joan Allen, Chris Chalk, and Stephen Lang.
“Refresh, Refresh,” by Benjamin Percy, read by Ted Marcoux
Selections from "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families," edited by Andrew Carroll.
For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit Symphony Space