CLOSE QUARTERS by Larry Heinemann


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Vietnam combat in the first person, the person of Philip (""Flip"") Dosier, shorttimer, driver of armored personnel carriers, hater of ""housecats,"" lifers, dinks, gooks, and the Red Cross (""What a bunch of walking wounded""). Raised on John Wayne (""even before he became a verb""), Dosier begins his mid-Sixties stint without much dread (""at least it isn't the straight-leg infantry""), but, after monotonous jungie-busting, abortive ambushes, moonlit battles (the Tet offensive), cuts that won't heal, dirt and aches that won't go away, and a diet of Darvon, ""Cambodie smokes,"" warm beer, and ""Chieu Hoi pussy almost every afternoon,"" he reaches the point where he ""couldn't feel anything in my fingers. . . couldn't taste food."" Once a few buddies have been turned into carcasses, and a Marine brother's been blinded, Dosier is primed for any miniature My Lais that come along: ""I wanted that smooth, smug, slant-eyed fucking face ground into meat, transformed into spray."" He's also primed for the Tokyo R&R (great sex with ""Susie"" in the Perfeet Room Hotel) that breaks up the time but makes going back to that ""raunchy, shit-foul, tenant-dirt-farm stink"" even harder. Dosier never becomes the sharp-focused, central character that might give this first novel real shape: his prewar life's a blank, his postwar restlessness moves into familiar generalities (leftover violence, quick marriage), and his voice lapses from tough-dirty-dufus into the New Yorkerdshness of ""and such"" or ""and so forth."" But that voice records other, surer voices with an unerring ear for rhythmic obscenity and anger, and records the horrors and absurdities of rice-paddy war--the flies, the frags, the body hags--with unflinching detail and unforgiving energy.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux