SOLDIERS & CIVILIANS: Americans at War and at Home by Tom--Ed. Jenks

SOLDIERS & CIVILIANS: Americans at War and at Home

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A former fiction editor at Esquire and recently editor of Hemingway's posthumous Garden of Eden, Jenks here collects 20 previously published stories about war. The rather broad subtitle and the undermining epigraph from Michael Herr (""War stories aren't really anything more than stories about people anyway"") suggest how much Jenks has stretched the concept in order to fill out the anthology with work by today's trendiest, not necessarily ""finest,"" writers. Predictably, the core of the collection concerns the Vietnam War, and three excellent stories in particular, none of which has been published between hardcovers, take us into the thick of things with lots of unsentimental, tough-talk about battle (John MoWs ""Tanks""), torture of enemies (Larry Heinemann's ""Good Morning to You, Lieutenant""), and the fear that mounts with waiting (Tim O'Brien's ""The Ghost Soldiers""). Back in the world, as Tobias Wolff's undistinguished story of the same title characterizes the homefront, Bobble Ann Mason (""The Big Bertha Stories"") reprises her Viet vet shtick in affectless prose familiar to In Country readers. Breece Pancake's ""The Honored Dead"" better measures the War's domestic consequences, and John Sayles' grim account of a Vietnamese girl's exploitation, while chilling and unforgettable, doesn't really meet the criteria for inclusion. This poorly conceived anthology, though, also has a few surprises--a fine, old-fashioned story by Andre Dubus (""The Dark Men"") about a Navy pilot with a dark secret; James Salter's modest account of a West Point reunion, class of '60 (""Lost Sons""); and Don DeLillo's look at war in the future (""Human Moments in World War III""), an uncollected piece that stands out here for its superior artistry. Jenks pads this silly collection with chunks of novels, good (Stone's A Flag for Sunrise), bad (Kathryn Kramer's A Handbook for Visitors from Outer Space), and indifferent (Jayne Anne Phillips Machine Dreams), none of which excerpts smoothly. What Ward Just's ""I'm Worried About You"" is doing among stories about war remains a mystery not worth solving.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Bantam