YANCEY'S WAR by William Hoffman


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In a grabbag of styles, this is the story of a seriocomic Pagliacci who undeservedly won a medal in WWI, lost his self-esteem, then joined the infantry in WWII to become a man again. Marvin Yancey is almost completely detestable, a Southern Babbitt-cum-Sammy Glick, and the wonder is that such a hilarious comedy could be built around him. It's not all funny (as one might expect from Hoffman's earlier books). Like Catch-22 it zooms from humor to horror and ends in a nightmare with Nazi boys and hobbling old men attacking an American squad trapped in a Rhineland farmhouse. The story is told by a bland young ex-bank manager who has served with Yancey and cuckolded him because Yancey betrayed him in OCS. The opening chapters and the sex-interest are by far the least inventive in the book. What distinguishes the novel are four long set-pieces dealing with nine weeks at OCS: a madly funny, fouled-up War Games in a Georgia swamp; an officer's club spree in Sicily; and the climax. A continuing chorus of seven yardbirds comment with cynicism on the action and the WACs are perfect... When the story hits its peaks, it more than compensates for the terrain below, and it all cries for film.

ISBN: 0807130699
Publisher: Doubleday