DAU by Ed Dodge


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Dau"" is the Vietnamese word for pain--and this first novel, unimpressively written yet effectively relentless, offers an almost nonstop chronicle of one soldier's agonies. Morgan Preston rather numbly and without much thought enlists in the Air Force in 1968, then volunteers for Vietnam. He experiences a gradual education: Saigon decadence (but also tender romance with barmaid Para, who'll later be killed at My Lai); front-line wounds (a foot shattered); recovery; redeployment to a Green Beret camp near the Cambodian border. Then, when the camp is overrun by VC, Morgan luckily escapes, retreating into the bush (and surviving on roasted rat) until rescue. But even after he's shipped States-side, Morgan is in pain: in his mind all the horror suddenly regurgitates. He has to be hospitalized for six months; and, when released, he is still subject to the delayed trauma gnawing at his mental condition. Dodge is an amateurish, flat writer, only rarely injecting novelistic drama into the catastrophes he catalogues. Yet it's very difficult not to root for Morgan's brave fighting-back in the ruins of his young life; and this artless novel, though without the talent on display in other recent Vietnam fiction, is nonetheless gutsy--and moderately inspiring.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1984
Publisher: Macmillan