Monday, July 14, 2008

War is over (whether or not you want it)

now finished: The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Well, I'm done! I know, that was fast, right? It was a long 'un (721 pages) but it moved quickly and it wasn't tiny, crammed type or anything. It just kind of moved along, like a mass market book would. (Notice how the blogger has learned to be careful about slighting genre fiction...)

So in the end it wasn't just about war. It was also about the soldiers fighting the war. And that really was all it was about, but he did pull it off, I think. You get to know the men in the platoon, and as you go along they each get a flashback dropped somewhere in the hundreds of pages, in which you learn about their pre-war lives, which illuminates their war selves, and it's pretty interesting. I will say that I did totally care about what was going to happen at the end, so that's a good book, I guess.

As I read it I could see how ol' Norman "burst onto the scene" with this, in 1948, half a century before Saving Private Ryan and still a few decades from Apocalypse Now. But i was starting to seriously question how Mailer came to be known as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, if not the greatest. Maybe when I read The Executioner's Song I'll feel differently. (And I will read that; it won a Pulitzer, after all.)

In the end he concocts this powerfully symbolic trek -- two actually, both the mountain climb and the carrying of jackass Wilson on a stretcher -- and he really brings it all together nicely.

But I just didn't have too much to say about it. It was, well, you know: about war.

Maybe tomorrow I'll share some thoughts on the pages I folded down that contained political ideas.

Meanwhile, 'N' has long been settled when Brian (who is sometimes a participant in this project) put in an early plug for Frank Norris' McTeague. Sorry, V.S. and Anais. But the question is, should 'O' be Kenzaburo Oe or John O'Hara? And if Oe, which Oe?

Next up, a ranking of the books read so far...


Kim Diaz said...

Since you are reading about war, if you have not read The Things They Carried, then "O" should definitely be O'Brien. I loved it. But you've probably read it.

linda said...

The problem with that is The Things They Carried is the entirety of my association with O'Brien; it's one of those cases where the book is more famous than the author. I don't mind if the book is as stupendously famous as the author i.e. In Cold Blood/Capote, but for this project I'm trying to avoid having it be a book everyone has heard of but maybe they don't even know who wrote it. Rather I am trying to read one book by an author for each letter. I considered and eliminated O'Brien. I am really stuck on Kenzaburo Oe. I think.

linda said...

Oh yeah, and, I'm SICK OF reading war novels. Unless there was a really good Iraq war novel. Unlike (apparently) the majority of the United Statesian public right now I am not averse to hearing about the fucked up boondacle (sp?) we are letting go on and on...

Kim Diaz said...

"boondoggle" maybe?
Oe I do not know. Read on.