Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Short-Timers hardcover first edition


The hardcover first edition of The Short-Timers, published by Harper & Row in January 1979.

Dust jacket copy:
From its opening pages in Marine boot camp on Parris Island to the excruciating suspense of its climatic finale during the jungle battle for Khe Sanh, The Short-Timers is a brilliant and savage reenactment of the descent into barbarism that formed the bottom line of the American intervention in Viet Nam.

Terse and brief as a scream, The Short-Timers traces the career of a sardonic narrator ("Joker") through the organized sadism of basic training, into a distasteful assignment as a combat reporter, and finally to the command of a platoon of "grunts" in the chaos that followed the Tet offensive. It is a story about some of the most harrowing experiences Americans have ever been made to endure, the story of a gallery of young Americans who are turned into violence freaks while still remaining individuals--comic, pathetic, repellent, proud and caring.

Sometimes surreal, sometimes all too realistic, and, without warning, funny, here is a novel that is--like its subject--as incongruous and undeniable as an exploding booby trap. It is a brutal novel because it is about the brutality of men trained to violence; but it is a book filled with the very rare and great compassion available to men who have survived the loss of their humanity in combat. This is a truly remarkable accomplishment for a first novel--which it is--or a tenth.

Dust jacket photo of Gus.
Gustav Hasford served as a Combat Correspondent with the First Marine Division in Viet Nam. He now lives and works in California.

From the back cover:
Advance comments about The Short-Timers:
"Gustav Hasford has managed to capture the Viet Nam War's gritty realities without trying to deliberately shock, and its aura of unreality without degenerating into surrealism. Most of us who fought there will never put it behind us, and Mr. Hasford is obviously among those who cannot forget. It is a beautiful story, and it is true, and as he himself has said, 'The truth can be ugly.'"
--Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War

"Many are already forgetting the Viet Nam War. Actually, it is only now being discovered. Americans (except for the few who were in it) are only now learning what Americans did in that war--and what they will be doing in any other war that may 'break out' in the near future. To those who refuse to forget, who, instead, wish to know, I recommend Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers.
--Eric Bentley, critic

2 comments:

kanchan tyagi said...

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Julia Turner said...

On the spirit of the bayonet

Werewolf smile

'Leonard is not hard enough to harness the power of an interior explosion to propel the cold black bullet of his will.'

You caress it but you can't make love to it.

Leonard. Failing miserably at being constructed through brutality and failing at being one of the brotherhood. The system adjusts its efforts to "educate" him by shifting the pressure onto the others, by making them do the punishment for his mistakes (all for one, one for all).

More brutality: Leonard gets a good beating from the other recruits and then he goes to a dark place. He breaks. Finds his fidelity in a rapturous nightmare with his weapon. He falls for his weapon not for his brothers. Becomes defensive. He is covetous: he didn't like the way gerheim looked at her.

You are supposed to master your weapon. Leonard says he will do anything for her. She devours him.

What flows: it's a killer. To go about killing it needs to be wild and senseless and surreal. It needs to be mastered: when the explosion occurs the marine is in pure control of pure madness. Madness is not converted; rather, the marine is in perfect alignment. He is perfectly aware.

The interface is the point at which the explosion is harnessed. The interface between the master and this trip is inscrutable. Both logical and illogical, it is not for discussion but it is something that is commonly understood within the brotherhood.

An explosion is a tremendous force and something which is blown apart. All of these fragile little connections that support this farcical existence disintegrate and the werewolf becomes pure will. You are flying through the air at a million miles per hour; the blood flows. And you are oh so good.