INSTINCT FOR SURVIVAL by

INSTINCT FOR SURVIVAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rambling essays on the author's character formation as he was reared in the South, and on the meaning of masculinity, inner life in the military, and his way of writing essays. Hoy (Expository Writing/Harvard) graduated from West Point in 1961; a 28-year Army career followed, including a tour in Vietnam as an artillery officer and 14 years spent teaching writing and literature at West Point. Here, he is at his clearest and most thought-provoking on matters military. In ""Soldiering,"" Hoy calls going to Vietnam ""a red badge of capitulation...the most deeply ambivalent thing I ever did. I was against the war politically, yet I was a soldier bound by my duty."" Commanding four artillery batteries, he applied all his pedagogic talent to teaching his men to survive by teamwork and disciplined fire. In another essay, distinguished by its sympathy, Hoy relates the struggles of a perspicacious young female cadet--one of the first of her sex to attend West Point. Elsewhere, though, Hoy's essays divagate frustratingly. ""Mosaics of Southern Masculinity"" meanders through ""Jungian"" games, honky-tonking, marital difficulties, southern town-fathers, and extended descriptions of other essayists' work--all without definite conclusion. In ""The Language of Images, Their Conversations,"" the author muses about the influence on him of his father (who abandoned the family when Hoy was five); his shifting consciousness as he writes essays; his relationship with his mother; and his self-image as a writer. These circular ruminations--many intriguing despite their fragmentation--recur so often in Hoy'a pieces that nearly every essay ends up echoing the others. Able writing, but hobbled by uncertain focus.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia Press