A son always strives to step out of the shadow of his father. In Benjamin Busch’s case, his father, Frederick Busch, cast a very long shadow. Frederick Busch, a novelist and short story writer, published 27 books before his death in 2006. His writing is often described as lyrical and poetic, offering readers small glimpses into their souls. So for Benjamin Busch to write his own book, the memoir Dust to Dust, is a significant step out of that shadow.
Benjamin Busch is no slouch himself. He is an actor, director and a Marine officer who served two tours in Iraq. He is perhaps best known for playing Officer Anthony Colicchio on the HBO crime series “The Wire.” And there are no oedipal motives for writing the book: Busch’s father was loving, caring and indulgent. Dust to Dust, according to the author, was written as an exploration of “the themes at my center . . . impermanence and mortality . . . my need for the adventure of exploration, the confrontation with death.”
In some ways, Busch could not be more different from his father. Fresh from protesting the war in Vietnam, Frederick Busch and his wife, Judith, moved their family to a farm in central New York. His son, Benjamin, soon develops the mentality of a warrior, wandering the woods, building forts and melting crayons into bullets. Yet his parents, opposed to violence and war, prohibit him from having a toy gun. Benjamin Busch does not consciously defy his parents, but he is clearly drawn to war games. He vividly describes his experiences playing high school football and his two tours of duty in Iraq. Yet while Busch is a soldier, he is also a poet. He chooses not to tell his tale in chronological order, but to center it around elemental themes, such as water, metal, bone and blood. And when he is done fighting, Busch settles on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.
Dust to Dust is a thoughtful meditation on life, death and family. Benjamin Busch, while still a young man, skillfully examines the passions and desires of his life, his need to explore and create some distance from his famous father, and in the end, the striking similarities he shares with the man who gave him life.