SPARRING WITH CHARLIE by Christopher Hunt

SPARRING WITH CHARLIE

Motorbiking Down the Ho Chi Minh Trail

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Thirtysomething Economist correspondent Hunt ventures to Vietnam to get his fair share of abuse, finding plenty of it when he wanders off the typical tourist path. Hunt, fresh from a break-up with his girlfriend and three career changes (from journalism to law school to stand-up comedy), went to Vietnam to do research for a novel set along the old North Vietnamese infiltration route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. ``I had to know what happened, both during and after the war,'' he says. ``Was America really in the wrong?'' And Hunt had a third goal: to see how he ``would have fared under the miserable conditions that Americans and their enemies shared in Vietnam.'' The intrepid author embarked on an admittedly ``half-baked plan'' to experience the trail on a rickety motorbike. Our man gave up the novel research soon after he arrived in Vietnam. He ditched the idea of seeing most of the trail after several weeks of physical discomfort (rain, mud, impassable dead ends, potholes the size of Rhode Island, inedible food, unsanitary accommodations) and harassment from police and unfriendly natives. He decided to turn the trip into a less adventurous round of sightseeing. As for the big questions he poses about the war, Hunt does not come close to answering them. Nor does his research on contemporary Vietnam uncover anything that hasn't been documented in a half dozen recent books. The bulk of this fast-reading volume, then, is made up of a blow-by-blow description of Hunt's journey from Hanoi to Saigon, with stops in small towns, mountain villages, cities such as Hue, and a side trip into Laos. Along the way Hunt meets many Vietnamese. He peppers the descriptions of his hosts with language that is, at best, patronizing, for example, calling a large family ``a litter of seven.'' Hunt's most excellent adventure story reveals more about the adventurer than his exploits.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-48128-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




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