POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Vassar College alumnus Benjamin Busch may be most widely known for his portrayal of police officer Anthony Colicchio on the long-running HBO series The Wire. But Busch’s life after Vassar stands out most for his unconventional variety of experiences and accomplishments -- from entering the Marines right after college and earning the Bronze Star during two tours of duty in the Iraq War, to a growing and recognized body of essay writing and commentary, to creating a praised independent film. Now Busch has published the memoir Dust to Dust, which he will read from on Thursday, April 19, at 5:30pm in the Rosenwald Film Theater of the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film (room 109). Free and open to the public, this reading will be preceded by a book signing with Busch at the Rosenwald Theater beginning at 4:30pm.
Benjamin Busch wrote Dust to Dust (Ecco Books/Harper Collins, 2012) in response to a number of life-altering events, notably his return from war and the deaths of his parents. Busch’s father was novelist Frederick Busch, and he writes of a childhood spent in rural upstate New York, full of everyday boyhood adventures. His parents, liberals who protested the Vietnam War, tried to discourage his soldiering instincts, but finally succumbed to his insistent pleas for a toy gun and a bullet mold. Busch’s youthful encounters -- with the water of the nearby river, the soil of his mother’s garden, stone retaining walls, the wood of the surrounding forests -- are tied to his later experiences in war, and lead to his ruminations on the larger questions of life and death, permanence and loss.
“Truth to be told, there has never been another book like Dust to Dust,” writes Vinton Rafe McCabe in the New York Journal of Books. “No other book carries the full freight of combat including two tours of duty in Iraq: one in which the young soldier feels invincible, the second in which he feels a fearful certainty that he will die. These experiences are spotlighted so that we can see not only the whites of their eyes, but the spit, sweat, and blood—and places the war within the context of the whole of life, as if combat were completely akin to a football injury, or the first day spent on a movie set, or a night filled with coyote howls,” continues McCabe.
More about Dust to Dust and Benjamin Busch
A devoted if perhaps atypical solider, Benjamin Busch observes in Dust to Dust the realities of war, mortality, ruin, and rebirth. “I have seen cities destroyed in my life, people buried, graves dug up,” he writes. “I have lived outside in the elements. I know that everything is recomposed from preexisting matter, that we are all fragments from earth and life blown apart and gathered up. Pieces of us are from stars and meteors, the ocean, dirt, and the dead. We will not be able to keep these pieces either, our bodies doomed to be given back to the ground.”
Busch graduated from Vassar in 1991 with a degree in studio art. Twice nominated for Pushcart Prize essay awards, he has written for Harper’s and The Daily Beast among other outlets. His body of work also includes the 2011 short film Bright, a film festival favorite which he wrote, directed, and produced.
[Read more about Busch in a 2008 article from the Vassar Quarterly magazine.]
Benjamin Busch’s April 19 reading and related campus activities are supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as in part by the offices of the President and the Dean of the Faculty, the American Culture program, and the departments of English, film, and art.
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