Even a reviewer who has consumed dozens of books about war atrocities and veterans' turmoil finds this a retching and...

READ REVIEW

SPOILS OF WAR

Even a reviewer who has consumed dozens of books about war atrocities and veterans' turmoil finds this a retching and wringing experience. Much of it is spoken by veterans. It starts with transcribed memories of ""fucking gooks"" and more fucking gooks and some exceptionally vile stories about abusing prostitutes and shooting old men. Things we have heard before, although the violence and vernacular authenticity of the voices is newly unsettling. After more recollections of mine sweeps and fraggings -- so many fraggings -- and throwing an ARVN soldier into a swamp far from his crutches, the author steps in. The combatants' attitudes, he thinks, express something other than racism. The men respected the NLF and the North Vietnamese, but hated the ARVN as ""faggots""; this stems from their own brutal training, and most of all from the frustrations of guerrilla war. ""Frustrations of guerrilla war"" is now a truism, but seldom has it been made so real -- not only the constant threat of attack from any quarter, and the difficulty of fighting back, but the way the feeling of passivity drove these men crazy. The latter part of the book describes the veteran syndrome of blackouts and murderous rages, often accompanied by suicidal wishes. In his ironic, detached manner, which contributes to the horror of the book, Levy (a sociologist who spent a number of years talking with these veterans) refers to ""the democratizing effects of the war"" -- neither race, age, income, geography nor education preserves a man from this postwar psychosis. The veterans and their families describe the Veterans Administration's ferocious insensitivity. Biased? But this is not a muckraking job -- though no doubt probes of the VA will follow (prompted also by the Nader investigation of the VA, The Discarded Army, KR, p. 1147). This is a shared journey to the end of the night.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973