“I Can Spin Some Bullshit If You Want”: Narrating (and Bridging?) The Civil-Military Divide in Phil Klay’s Redeployment

March, 2020

This paper explores narratives of transition in the fiction book Redeployment by Phil Klay. Redeployment is a collection of fictional stories told by veteran narrators, this paper focuses on three of those stories “Bodies,” “War Stories” and “Psychological Operations”. Exploring the use of the word bullshit the paper investigates how the word “Bullshit” acts as both a defence mechanism and an instigation. The word “Bullshit” forces the reader to listen. The author hopes that in listening a new avenue for civil-military connection is created.


In Phil Klay’s fiction, the telling of one’s tale is fraught with personal peril. Exposing one’s actions to the scrutiny and possible condemnation of others is a difficult task requiring the embracing of one’s own vulnerability. This trepidation, combined with a strong suspicion that one will be misunderstood, creates conditions where miscommunication is more likely to occur than not. This tenuous dynamic explains the ambivalent stance towards narrative adopted by Klay’s veteran-narrators in Redeployment – perhaps best reflected in their repeated use of the word “bullshit” (over a dozen times) in a variety of instances throughout the collection. Examining three stories from the collection – “Bodies,” “War Stories,” and “Psychological Operations” – I consider the extent to which Klay’s invocation of “bullshit” announces that one carries no illusions about the truth-bearing quality of one’s narrative and that one is subsequently seeking a different kind of contract with the listener. In Klay’s stories, then, bullshit acts as both a defense mechanism and an instigation. Urging the reader to truly listen, Klay seeks to open new avenues for civil-military connection and an acceptance of mutual responsibility.

Full Reference

Gauthier, T., 2020. “I Can Spin Some Bullshit If You Want”: Narrating (and Bridging?) The Civil-Military Divide in Phil Klay’s Redeployment. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(1), pp.135–144. DOI:

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