The theory on military tactics has merit, but the book could have been improved with better balance between the overwhelming...

COWBOY AT WAR

Lee’s (The Search for a Hero, 2007) narrative nonfiction finds the author’s alter ego, Dr. Ahn, on a tour discussing the shortcomings of U.S. military strategy compared to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

In 2006, Ahn, a professor emeritus of English literature in South Korea, joins fellow teacher Ms. Jin on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. The two meet several people along the way, including a Vietnam War vet, a Seoul college history professor and a medical doctor. In between bouts of sightseeing and dining on local cuisine, the group talks about American military tactics, namely in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, in which the U.S. might have fared better had it employed “softpower”—psychological warfare based on The Art of War. Ahn supports his theory by noting successful runs against the U.N forces from “poorly-armed” Chinese and Viet Cong soldiers, as well as America’s Cold War victory over the Soviet Union. The author’s novel favors his argument over the autobiographical storyline: Ahn’s dialogue more closely resembles college lectures (often spoken in response to someone asking for his opinion), while most supporting characters don’t even have names. Ahn’s—or more directly, Lee’s—reasoning is sound, as history supports his references to the United States’ losing to guerrilla assaults. He also maintains a middle ground critical of America’s capitalism and materialism but clearly not on the side of communists, whom he calls, among other things, “wicked red ones.” The arguments, however, become repetitive; his unambiguous rationalization that the Chinese army and Viet Cong triumphed with strategies derived from Sun Tzu is overstated when he devotes multiple chapters to each war. And Ahn/Lee repeatedly calling U.S. soldiers “cowboys” and the country “Uncle Sam” and elsewhere calling the Japanese “samurai” or “Japs” seems derisive. Scaling back the reiterated exchanges would have given the arguments more impact and allowed the author to devote more pages to personal touches: Ahn’s thinly veiled attraction to Ms. Jin; his Japanese roommate in graduate school, who turned down the thermostat in their room before leaving the university; and a man in the tour group who’s publicly chastised by a few ladies for his wandering hands. The novel would likewise have benefited from some editing to correct errors—the attack on Pearl Harbor is given a Nov. 7 date more than once—and occasionally confusing grammar, such as Chinese soldiers maneuvering “just like flying bats on a sudden.”

The theory on military tactics has merit, but the book could have been improved with better balance between the overwhelming discourse and diminutive story.

Pub Date: March 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494734473

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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