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Where's Dixon?"" ""Gone west. Blown to fuckin' bits as we got out of the trench, poor bugger."" When this WW I trench-warfare novel was first privately issued in 1929 (author anonymous) in an edition of 520 copies, every expletive was intact and gave juice to the dialogue. A later bowdlerized version, Her Privates We, still anonymous, was well received, but the power of obscenity was missing. There's no denying that the newly reinstated curses of the present edition give wonderful emphasis and precision of disgust to dialogue that glows like cold blue liver being sliced on a choppingblock. Surprisingly little happens to these British soldiers. It is 1916 on the Somme and Ancre fronts, and we watch the activities of a regiment through the eyes of Private Bourne, an intelligent, sensitive fellow who never swears, avoids cushy jobs, and foregoes officer candidacy (until the end). He and Shem and Martlow, two younger men who look up to him for wisdom, spend the opening chapters in a dreadful rat pasture of corpses; they slog everywhere through six-inch deep mud and are sent out into No Man's Land at midnight, in a hot, coppery fog and under an endless cannonade that jellies the earth and only gains in intensity ali night long. When the regiment has at last lost too many men, it is sent behind the lines to be refitted, and the bulk of the book is the men's scrounging for whiskey and warm shaving water, their stupid and time-killing fatigue details, their yarns, rumors, gambling, and whoring. Then they return to the front for the novel's tragic climax. The Middle Parts of Fortune has been heatedly and heavily praised by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and T. E. Lawrence as the novel of trench warfare. And for microscopic, plotless horror, they are bloody, buggering right.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1977
ISBN: 174214571X
Publisher: St. Martin's