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 You know you've arrived as a celebrity filmmaker when an editor urges you to ransack your 30-year-old shoeboxes in search of a novel as fragmentary and adolescent as this one. The result is both autobiographical (the hero flunks out of Yale and makes his way to Vietnam in 1966) and prophetic (the novel was completed after Stone's teaching stint in Vietnam, but before his military tour began there in 1967). The title accurately describes the tormented impotence of the narrator, who, obsessed with the parable of Jekyll and Hyde, variously calls himself Oliver and William Stone--Oliver, his French mother's son, is the one who's read Goethe and Mill and Wordsworth and Plato; William, his American father's son, longs for the rough life as a heroic rebel. Written under the weighty influence of Joyce, most of the novel is content to dissolve people and incidents in a heady stew of stream-of-consciousness writing by turns allusive and raw. ``Why do I even bother wearing clothes?'' Oliver wonders early on. ``Nothing left to hide.'' But he goes on to reveal much, much more about his tortured soul in its journey from Yale to Vietnam and its dark dreams of 1999. Except for an extended seagoing anecdote that smacks more of Conrad than Joyce, though, non-Stone characters are largely restricted to walk-ons. (``You don't like people much, do you?'' his future wife Isobel tells him. ``Because you don't pay any attention to them when they talk to you.'') Action and monologue alike are so savage--Oliver's volcanic sexual encounters leave him almost as scarred as his companions--that it's a shock to realize how little actual combat appears in a novel that's valuable chiefly as a revelation of where Stone dug for Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth. A must for Stone fans, though cooler heads may find it the most gratuitous literary exhumation since Norman Mailer's Transit to Narcissus. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-16798-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997