Big things are happening for The Wax Bullet War this summer! It’s Sean Davis’s August readings blitz. During the first week of the month alone, Sean had four readings scheduled in ten days, in cities all over the Pacific Northwest: Bend, Seattle, Tacoma, and then back home to Portland. I recently had the pleasure of catching Sean at the midpoint of what may have been his busiest week yet at Third Place Books in Seattle.
I bumped into Sean an hour or so before the reading, at the cafe inside the bookstore. He rushed in straight off the road from Bend and disappeared to freshen up. While we were catching up over some food, we had a surprise visit from two fellow soldiers—close friends that Sean served with—one of whom is in the book as the character Baldwin. Named for Balder the Brave in Norse mythology, Baldwin is based on Matt Zedwick, or Z, the only living Silver Star recipient in the Oregon National Guard. Zedwick has also received a Purple Heart for the work that he did with Sean, and both of these men are still actively enlisted in the Pacific Northwest. Even before the reading began, it was clear that this was to be an emotional event.
Also present in the audience was a staffer from Seattle-based NPR affiliate KUOW, who was recording audio that might possibly be aired as part of that station’s Speakers Forum series, which has recently featured talks from authors Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Pollan, and many others.
While reading, Sean brought his usual blend of candor, humor, and storytelling. With selections like “Starving in the Belly of the Whale” and “Be Polite, Be Professional, and Be Prepared to Kill Everyone You Meet,” it quickly became apparent how much humor plays a part in Sean’s coping strategy, both while on duty and while reacclimating at home. Sean describes his first month of combat—during which his company completed over thirty missions in thirty days—when it was not uncommon to function on two hours of sleep at a time. One deals with the situation by staying high on the constant combination of fear and adrenaline. “Laughter is like an exhaust system,” Sean remarked. He describes having a good sense of humor, even when it seems insensitive, as imperative to working through the high-level stress. Sean’s reading was a clever balance of the ironic absurdities of military bureaucracy, compassion, and the hard-hitting, harrowing stuff like loneliness and loss. Despite the sometimes gritty nature of the work, Sean is great at making the audience feel comfortable; he is quick to remind them that he is a survivor, that he’s tough, and that it’s okay to laugh with him.
While Sean was busy signing books afterward, we had yet another surprise visit—this time from recently acquired Ooligan author and Seattle resident Allison Green. It was great to see these authors supporting each other, and to meet another amazing talent on the Ooligan roster. All in all, it was a pretty special reading.
As for Sean, he will continue to tirelessly pursue his endeavors in writing, art, and outreach; and now, we can also add performance to that list. For the rest of the summer, he will be rehearsing for upcoming performances in the opera Canticle of the Black Madonna and as a speaker for the Telling Project.