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Sack is the man who back in 1971 wrote Lieutenant Calley: His Own Story, an apologia provita sua for which Sack acted as Calley's obliging mouthpiece, editing some 500,000 inches of tape and in the course of his labors finding his subject ""sensible,"" ""sensitive"" and ""intelligent"" whereas most observers were primarily impressed with Rusty's stupefying vacuity. Now, two years later, comes The Man-Eating Machine which contains the moral Sack forgot to draw the first time around. The format is clever; the writing stylish as befits a contributing editor of Esquire; but the vision is bankrupt, crass, facile and cynical. The book consists of four vignettes each featuring a young man, Gl or ex-GI, caught in the ""wheelworks"" of the implacable, soulless machine which is America from the Pentagon to the Madison Avenue corporation. It's Sack's only metaphor and he runs it into the ground. There's Demirgian, a white cog in Vietnam who hopes his tour won't end before he's bagged himself at least one gook; Bob Melvin, a black cog, moving up the executive ladder via the Scope mouthwash account; Vantee, another black cog dispatched to control the riotous niggers in Baltimore after the King assassination; and finally Calley again, the ultimate cog in the machine that manufactured My Lai. Sack homogenizes all their disparate experiences into a big blur, stupidly equating the merely foolish and silly with the appalling and the horrific. In case you still haven't guessed the point: ""there at the irrigation ditch was the quintessential act of America. We were all William Calley."" Which is to spread the guilt so thinly and even-handedly that nothing and no one is better or worse; everyone is equally a victim and perpetrator in those grinding wheelworks. And nary a Luddite among us -- certainly not the cool and ironic Sack who seems as impervious as the villainous machine he's invented to take the heat off culpable humans.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1973
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux