A close encounter with six WWII vets, all good friends and self-made men.
Turncoat liberal Stein’s (How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, 2000, etc.) father-in-law, Moe Turner, provided him with entrée into this band of aging buddies in Monterey, California, who for the past 35 years have met weekly, usually at lunch, to ruminate and one-up each other on the life well-lived. (Or, as they would probably express it, to “shoot the BS.”) Probing the motives and principles that defined them, the author interlopes in order to frame key questions: What was it like to kill somebody? Were you scared? What about sex? Stein then annotates the group’s responses, which often express considerable discomfort and a covert desire to get the inquisition over, with his own pervasive subtext: Why would society meander away from such a productive value system? While everybody admires the guts of the guys who saved the world from Hitler and Tojo, Stein suggests, almost nobody today adheres to the same high standards of honor, duty, and responsibility that drove them. Apart from the war, the author further admires these individuals for their response to stress and adversity in other situations. He effectively points out that few have ever really stopped to think about how hard it was for someone returning from the war, having lost four irreplaceable years or so, to start all over again in a career, a marriage, a family. The role of faux naiveté Stein dons can be annoying, lending heaviness to an ongoing sense of book-making gears grinding away. But he is at least appropriately celebratory about the pleasure of being able to spend a couple of hours a week in the company of those who abstain from political correctness.
Predictable tribute searches for revelations, finds nostalgia.