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His hair is longer. It looks dirty. We hug. He swings my banana bike into the back of the truck without comment, without recognition. We get into the cab, our old positions. We head west to Route 2. He wants to go swimming at Walden Pond. Their bodies are bouncing, their bathing suit butts drooping from the water and the sand.
We step into a shady stand of pines and I nearly crash into Henry Thoreau. Behind him is a replica of his cabin. The door is open. I step up into it. On the far wall is a brick hearth and a potbellied stove in front of it. All I can feel is the effort of reproduction.
Nothing of Thoreau is here. Luke takes my hand and tugs me to sit on the bed with him. It would probably end up in a poem. I take pleasure in not showing it to him. I get up and step down onto the yellow pine needles. We cross the street and join a stream of people walking down the path. Below us on the small beach, bodies swarm. Children cry. Last month there was an hour wait just to get into the lot. He was here last month. The month he did not call me. It takes so much effort just to follow him around the bathing beach to a trail in the woods around the pond.
A wire fence runs along the water side of the path, and there are signs prohibiting people from going off the path and destroying the fragile ecosystem. But people have disobeyed, and all the small patches of sand you can see through the trees are taken so we keep walking. We find an empty little beach and crawl between the wires and down the steep embankment to it. We spread our towels a few feet apart. He gets up after a few minutes and sits on mine with me. My body aches from my throat to my groin.
I want him to slide his fingers into my bathing suit and make all the heaviness and misery go away. I feel like a hag in a fairy tale, waiting to be made young and supple again. I get up and walk into the water. I read the book in high school, when I lived less than an hour from here, but I never thought of it as a place that still existed. I drop into the water and push out from the shore on my back.
He stays on my towel and gets smaller and smaller in his white T-shirt. The shirt smells. I remember knowing that he smelled when I first met him. Then I stopped noticing. The trees are so tall from this angle, dark, with their hardening summer leaves. When I get out he watches my body and the water rushing off of it. I stay where I am.
A swimmer, a woman with strong mottled arms in a bright-blue bathing cap, cuts a diagonal line across the pond. I am the on- call that night. In his truck I smooth out my skirt. The truck glides along Memorial Drive. I see my path by the river, the geese at the base of the Western Ave.
All your life there will be men like this, I think. He pulls up next to the marigolds. I see his forehead resting on his hands on the steering wheel as I pull my bike out of the back. I wheel it around to his window and ring my bell out of habit. It is the sound of me coming to his cabin at the end of the day. I want to take that sound and stuff it into a bag with rocks and throw it in the river. He smiles and rests both elbows along the side of his truck. My body is fighting me. If I get closer, he will put his fingers in my hair.
I squeeze the handlebars and stay in place. I sit on my banana bike as he backs up, shifts, and pulls out. I stay there beside the marigolds on the side of the Sunoco station until his truck disappears around the bend where the river turns west. We met here in Cambridge six years ago, in line for the bathroom at the Plough and Stars, and hung out for a while before we both moved away for grad school.
I was refilling their waters and said, Muriel Becker? I got her number from her aunt. The day after Walden, Muriel takes me to a launch party of a writer she knows. I ride to her place in Porter Square, and we walk up Avon Hill. The houses get fancier the higher we climb, grand Victorians with wide front porches and turrets.
Basically you cut out the backbone and sort of compress all the pieces in a pan. I can tell by the way her long arms are flying all around. I have not. I have to reenact on the sidewalk the way he bit my knee. But my chest is still burning. I did that this time. You know I do. The party is at the end on the left, a massive house: bow windows, three stories, mansard roof.
The doorway is jammed. We stand on the threshold, unable to enter. The other guests are mostly older by twenty or thirty years, the women in stockings and heels, the men in sports jackets. The air smells like a cocktail party from the seventies, aftershave and martini onions.
The party is for a writer who leads a fiction workshop at his house near the Square on Wednesday nights. I have to keep moving forward. The writer had been a professor at BU until three years ago when his wife died, and he left teaching to write full-time and be home for his kids. And if he really loves it, his fingers will be laced together in his lap by the end. So this is definitely a step up.
We inch our way through the vestibule into a living room, which is slightly less jammed. Muriel grabs my arm and pulls me through an archway into a smaller room lined with books. Usually Muriel mauls people. He shifts a book from one hand to the other to shake it. His eyes are dark brown and hooded. Muriel points to the book. I was one of the first to arrive and he was sitting at the dining room table with a huge stack of books next to him. From last week. Carry on, Alice, it says above the signature.
We laugh. Two women are waving from the far side of the other room, trying to squeeze their way toward us. Muriel sees them and presses back into the crowd to meet them halfway. The paper is rough, old-fashioned, like heavy typewriter paper. By Oscar Kolton. I flip to the back flap to see what Oscar Kolton looks like. Silas studies the photo with me. It was taken from the side, one of his shoulders in the foreground, elbow to knee, bicep flexed.
The contrast between black and white is so extreme his face looks carved out like an Ansel Adams rock face and the backlighting has turned his pupils to pinpricks. She has a big apologetic smile on her face. I bounce the photo in front of Silas. I sneer and flip him two birds. He laughs again. He has a chipped front tooth, a clean diagonal cut off one corner.
Muriel is bringing her friends toward us. Behind his back. So maybe not so impressive. Are you going back next week? It might be too religious for me. A lot of verbal genuflecting. Silas hesitates. People just take down everything he says. People gasped. And then silence. I like a little more debate. Silas shifts slightly, putting a bit more of his back to them. She introduces us. One is an infectious disease doctor specializing in AIDS research, and the other heads up a nonprofit in Jamaica Plain.
Maxx in Fresh Pond. They have crossed the room for Silas, and they pepper him with questions. I drift out of the conversation, out of the room. I veer into the kitchen and peer at the writer through the window in the swinging door. I can only see the back of him, the rim of a blue tie showing beneath his collar and a shoulder blade jutting up through the white dress shirt as he signs his name.
Every few minutes a server comes in for a refill. It feels strange not to be the one wearing a bun and apron. I take a fig from the tray and a napkin from her other hand. The asphalt is purple in the dusk. We walk in the middle of the road down the hill.
The sun has sunk but its heat hangs in the air. My ears ring from all the voices at the party. We talk about a book called Troubles that I read and passed along to her. She loved it as much as I did, and we go through the scenes we liked best. The short biography on the back page said that the writer, J. Farrell, died while angling, swept out to sea by a rogue wave. You go out to see a man about a dog. I tell her Silas said that Wednesday nights felt cultish. She considers that.
Maybe that is like a cult. The streets are quiet on the way home, the river flat and glossy. The sky is the darkest blue it gets just before turning black. So do I, Muriel told him. He needed to be alone in a room with books. That was ten months ago.
The next day David, the old boyfriend, calls her. They say women have intuition, but men can smell a competitor across state lines. We were supposed to go out Thursday night. Oh, holy crap, I nearly forgot. That guy Silas asked me for your number. An old-man voice. And we could get a bite to eat after. It was something my mother would say. Do I really not know the name of that dog? My landlord.
I take care of him sometimes. I should never answer the phone in the morning. He has called to ask you out on a date. Do not mention a dead mother. Very simpatico. It still burns a bit, coming out. He listens. He breathes into the phone. I can tell he lost someone close somehow. Your words go scattershot off of it.
I ask him, and he says his sister died, eight years ago. But she was struck by lightning. People can get very caught up in that. The symbolism. Or the physical details. Either one. It bugs me. I heard over the phone at five in the morning in a tiny kitchen in Spain. That day was the first day I felt okay. I went to the mall to get a pair of sneakers, and when I came back my father told me to sit down.
I heard it all in his voice. I already knew. For so long I was so mad he made me sit down. My class started twelve minutes ago. Summer school. Can I call you tonight? We hang up. My room comes into focus again, my desk, my notebook. Muriel comes to the potting shed after her walk with David. I make tea and we sit on my futon. But he was just the same. He was unappealing to me.
He wants me back. He made a terrible mistake, he said. And I just kept thinking, When can I get back in my car. Looking at the rest of his life scared him. But losing me, he said, was even scarier. We went around and around. For hours. He was so dramatic, leaping around me, throwing out his arms. He actually hit a runner at one point. He cried. It was awful. It was over. It was so clear.
And when he tried to kiss me, I shoved him away. My arms just pushed him away before I knew what I was doing. It was so physical, the repulsion. It felt biological. Like I knew I would never have children with this man. It was so awful and weird. I make more tea and cinnamon toast and we scoot back on the futon and lean against the wall, eating and sipping and looking out my one window at the driveway where Adam seems to be arguing with Oli the cleaning lady.
But the older one nods. She flew from Phoenix to LA to Santiago. She had a cough left over from a cold but no fever. Apart from that, she was in full health. Fifty-eight years old. No medical issues. Her friends get her to a clinic there and they put her on oxygen and radio for an air ambulance and just before it comes she dies.
The younger one is still holding the sugar packet. Why did her heart stop? Was it a pulmonary embolism? From the long plane flight? How do we get out of here? She was dozing. Sort of in and out. Then she sat up, said she had to make a phone call, lay back down again, and was dead.
It was very peaceful, Janet told me. Such a pretty day. I tried, in phone calls with Janet, to get more detail than pretty day and peaceful. Were children kicking a ball outside? Who did she sit up to call? Was there any noise at all when her heart stopped? Why did it stop? I wanted to hear my mother tell it. She loved a story. She loved a mystery. She could make any little incident intriguing. In her version, the doctor would have a wandering eye and three chickens in the back named after Tolstoy characters.
Janet would have a heat rash on her neck. I wanted her and no one else to tell me the story of how she died. Caleb and I opened it together. We lifted out her yellow rain slicker, her two cotton nightgowns, her one-piece bathing suit with the pink-and- white checks. We pressed our noses to every item, and every item smelled of her. We knew they were for us. When the suitcase was empty I slid my hand into the interior elasticized pouches, certain there would be something in writing, a note or a sentence of goodbye, of premonition, in case of.
There was nothing but two safety pins and a thin barrette. The rest of the week goes badly. My writing flounders. Every sentence feels flat, every detail fake. I go for long runs along the river, to Watertown, to Newton, ten miles, twelve miles, which help, but after a few hours the bees start crawling again.
I scroll the pages I have on the computer and skim the new pages I have in my notebook since Red Barn. It all looks like a long stream of words, like someone with a disease that involves delusions has written them. I am wasting my life. It pounds like a heartbeat. For three days straight it rains, and the potting shed starts to smell like compost.
I arrive at Iris soaked through and barely dry off before I have to ride back home. I try to fold my white shirt carefully into my knapsack but it wrinkles, and Marcus scolds me for it. Each way I pass the Sunoco station on Memorial Drive, the ugly marigolds in their concrete bed, and hot tears mix with the rain. The date at the end of the week with Silas, for which I have swapped a lucrative Friday night for a Monday lunch, fills me with dread.
But when I am not paying attention, I remember his voice on the phone and his chipped tooth, and a ripple of something that might be anticipation passes through. Harry and I have two doubles together, Tuesday and Thursday. My service is worse, but my tips are always better. Harry asked me to dinner after the first shift we worked together.
He was handsome and hilarious, with a sexy British accent and a flawlessly hetero shield. Who are you, Henry Higgins? It was quite a trick. After that I was just one of the lads. But when the panna cotta arrived he mentioned an ex, named Albert. I was floored. Later we called it the panna cotta revelation.
You can have him if he is. No thanks. Not the good ones. God, that would be awful. He goes off to drop a check at his deuce. I like to dominate, verbally. Your three-top wants hot tea. It makes us feel about six years old. We make faces at each other behind his back. When I get home that night, late—there was an anniversary party for sixty-one in the downstairs dining room — Silas is on my machine. I had to leave town. For a while. I really am. I barely know you.
I had to. I had to go. Take care of yourself. He was like, uh, had to leave town, uh, for a while. No idea how long. I do not want to see it. Harry swaps a shift with Yasmin and comes with me. He flirts madly with all the straight guys. It went badly in Provincetown with the new busboy. Muriel serves Moroccan chicken, couscous, and sangria. I fill my plate next to a guy who calls himself Jimbo and had a novel published last year. Motorcycle Mama.
It received mixed reviews, Muriel told me, but he got a six-figure contract for the next one anyway. He moves on bellowing through the room. The only other person there who has published a book is Eva Park. I met Eva six years ago, when she was working on the collection. She was sort of ablaze with a lot of nervous energy then. All the stuffing seems to have gone out of her since.
She looks embarrassed, sitting on that stool, to be who she is now. Success rests more easily on men. Across the room, Jimbo holds up a bottle and hollers that the Grey Goose has flown. Muriel calls me over and makes me squeeze on the couch between her and her grad school friend George, who turned up unexpectedly that afternoon, which apparently he does from time to time.
He has a smooth plump face and gold-rimmed glasses. Big round eyes through the lenses. Harry is on the other side of Muriel, and they have enhanced the intensity of their conversation to force George and me to talk to each other. I already know part of his story. He and his wife arrived in Ann Arbor together for grad school. He was in the fiction program with Muriel, and his wife was in nonfiction. During their second year there she started getting migraines and was sent to a specialist.
At her third appointment, the doctor locked the door and they had sex. On the examining table with the crinkly paper. The doctor remained standing the whole time. Now the wife is migraine-free and living with the doctor, and George is heartbroken and teaching freshman comp at UNC—Greensboro. Her parents were American, but after the war her father set up a medical practice in Santiago de Cuba.
In the book I have her choose love. I push some chicken around on my paper plate. I need to change the subject. Talking about my book makes me feel flayed alive. How long have you been working on it? Most nights. That kind of thing is contagious. August arrives and Iris becomes a wedding factory: rehearsal dinners, receptions, and an occasional small ceremony on the deck.
For these events the restaurant is closed to the public, and we pass around oysters, crab toasts, stuffed figs, and risotto balls along with flutes of champagne on special silver trays. We water and wine them. There are long periods of time when we line the wall and watch the wedding party, each with our own particular cynicism.
Only Victor Silva is married. Dana thinks all the bridesmaids are snots and tends to pick fights with them. Harry believes every groom is closeted and hitting on him. Mary Hand hangs out with musicians in the corner, making sure they get a full meal and all the drinks they want.
I always say the couple is too young. They never seem to know each other very well. They look at each other warily. Not one of the events in August makes me feel like getting married is a good idea. It was nothing I ever aspired to, anyway. My parents were married twenty-three years and never made it look appealing. She was staying with a friend from junior college, and he was in a tournament.
My mother told me he wooed her with wanderlust. He could teach golf anywhere. He was a better teacher than player, he confessed to her. They could spend a year or two in the south of France, Greece, Morocco. Head over to Asia. There was a lot of interest in golf in Japan, he said. After that maybe Cuba would have opened up again. Maybe he could bring her back there to live, he told her.
She quit college to marry him, but he surprised her after the honeymoon by buying a house north of Boston. He got a job at the high school, and they never left. Instead of love and the revolution, instead of traveling the world, she became a radical in our conservative town, distributing flyers and hiring vans to go to protests against discrimination, Vietnam, and nuclear power.
Sometimes she and Caleb were the only people in those vans. She started going to St. But what she found after six months at church was Javier Paniagua. He played folk songs on the guitar and supervised the playground after mass. I remember his first day, when I was eleven, because I was allowed to play outside longer after Sunday school. Normally my mother called to me from the edge of the parking lot, and I went to her immediately.
She was tense and impatient back then and would grit her teeth and try to yank my arm off if I kept her waiting. He liked it better than the protesting. He even went to mass with us on Christmas and Easter. After a few years, though, he grew annoyed. He called the church St. He never understood the real threat was the curly-haired kid with the guitar.
Javier was at St. When treatment in Boston failed, my mother drove him to his family in Phoenix and stayed until they buried him a year and a half later. My mother came back in the late spring of my sophomore year of high school. She rented a small house on the outskirts of town. She wore blue jeans and beaded belts and cried a lot. But she made efforts with me. And look at him, so cold. That poor girl. That poor girl, she said over and over. Never put yourself in that situation, she said to me.
Never ever, she said as Diana walked slowly up the stairs with the long train behind her. Marriage is the polar opposite of a fairy tale, my mother said. At Iris, leaning over to refill a glass or relight a candle, I eavesdrop on the wedding guests. The rites of marriage are an expensive and dreary business. The only thing that can cut through my skepticism is if the mother of the bride stands up.
Harry holds my hand. August is endless. My old friends are getting married, too. The invitations catch up with me eventually, forwarded from Oregon or Spain or Albuquerque. Unfortunately, sometimes these invitations arrive before the wedding has taken place. I check the regret box on the small return card and write an apology without an excuse. I do not mention my debt or my work commitments to the weddings of strangers or my bewilderment at why they would participate in a hollow, misogynistic ritual that will only end in misery.
Tara from middle school calls and puts me on the spot. She wants me to be her maid of honor. In November. In Italy. She knows my situation. And we got a super deal on a villa outside of Rome. And we bundled the plane tickets—business class. You have to be there. I would never accept that. What else are you going to spend this money on?
This is one of those selfish decisions you are going regret the rest of your life. We need to be there for each other. You need to make this happen against all odds and obstacles. You put it on a credit card, and you come to my wedding. I can barely meet the minimums.
Would you be able to afford Bermuda or your two-bedroom in SoHo? Are you more of an adult because two men are giving you the illusion of self-sufficiency? I am hemorrhaging friends with these weddings. Muriel and Harry are nearly all I have left. On the last day of August I go to work in the morning and the waiters are all gathered around the bar. The hardest thing about writing is getting in every day, breaking through the membrane.
The second-hardest thing is getting out. Sometimes I sink down too deep and come up too fast. Afterward I feel wide open and skinless. The whole world feels moist and pliable. When I get up from the desk I straighten the edges of everything. The rug needs to be perfectly aligned with the floorboards. My toothbrush needs to be perpendicular to the edge of the shelf. Clothing cannot be left inside out. I was scared of those bags.
I barely had any emotions at all. But at night I terrified myself with this fear that somewhere inside me someone wanted to die. When my mother came back from Arizona, she asked if I wanted to talk to someone, a professional, she said. My mother had returned brokenhearted and in the middle of divorce litigation with my father.
I told her she was the one who should see a shrink, not me. In college one of my best friends was a psych major and practiced on me with the Minnesota personality test. She showed me the bar graph of my results. All the bars were in the medium size, normal range except two, which were much taller.
The other was for schizophrenia. I wondered if that tall schizophrenia bar had anything to do with why I tied those dry-cleaning bags in knots before bed that year my mother was gone, my suspicion that there was someone else inside me. During the time my mother was out West, I did some of the same sort of rearranging of objects that I do now after writing sometimes. I always had to put on my right shoe, then the left. I could never leave a shirt inside out. If I followed the rules, my mother would definitely come back from Phoenix.
And here I am, making rules again, even though nothing I do now will ever, ever bring her back. Adam comes by with my mail. He sees me at my desk in the window, so I have to open the door. He hands me a postcard and four envelopes from debt collectors, stamped with bright red threats. He thinks of me as young and somehow protected by my youth. Adam points to the EdFund envelope. They get sued left and right for unlawful practices. It was the scent of black mold and gasoline that came in from the garage.
I toss out the envelopes and sit back at my desk with the postcard. One side is a photograph of spiked snow-covered mountains in the background, lower, rounder brown mountains below, and a bright green pasture with wildflowers and a grazing cow.
Crested Butte? I hope I can explain it to you better when I get back. I drop it in the bin on top of the past-due notices. That week I make a few trips to the public library to research Cuba. Each time I end up in the biography stacks, reading about writers and their dead mothers. She had been called home from boarding school when her mother got sick, and after her death Eliot lost all hope of further education. Lawrence stayed at her bedside for the final three weeks, reading and painting and working on what would become the novel Sons and Lovers.
During that time a galley of his first novel, The White Peacock, arrived at the house. His mother looked at the cover, the title page, and then at him. He felt her doubt of his talents. Her pain worsened and he witnessed her increasing agony. He begged the doctor to give her an overdose of morphia to set her free, but the doctor refused. Lawrence did it himself. Till I almost dissolved away myself, and was very ill, when I was twenty-six.
Then slowly the world came back: or I myself returned: but to another world. When her mother died, she sent her husband to the funeral. She stayed home to write. She was thirty-nine, and she published her first novel the following year. Marcel Proust was thirty-four when his mother died. Apart from a year of military service, he had lived with her his whole life. After she was gone he went to a clinic outside Paris for nervous disorders where he was forbidden to write.
He considered suicide but believed it would be killing his mother again if he destroyed his own memory of her. When he left the clinic he began to write a critical essay about the writer Sainte-Beuve, fueled by an imaginary conversation with his mother. Her cheek was like cold iron, and granulated, Virginia wrote later.
It was sunset and the glass dome of the station was lit up a blazing red. It lasted two years. I slide the pigeon into place and a creepy sound comes from every direction in the room, like an alien invasion. A lean boy in a tux and floppy red hair comes running into the center of the dining room and people flinch and gasp and the redhead flings out his arms. The Kroks are back in town. I fire my six-top on the computer in the wait station.
Dana brushes past me, kicks through the kitchen door with a stack of cleared plates. Then they fling her back where she came from in one motion on the last note of the song. They put their heads down as if in prayer and back away slowly from the smallest of them all, a curly-haired cherub who steps forward, opens his mouth, pauses, and begins singing. It feels like everyone in the dining room has stopped breathing. The boy sings three more verses and the last chorus himself.
When he stops the silence is long and complete. Then, a torrent of applause. The Kroks know this is their showstopper. They wave goodbye and jog out the door. The dining room remains quiet. I carry my dessert the rest of the way, and my two ladies at 9 are patting their eyes. After I put down the plate and two spoons, I wipe mine, too. Five minutes later the diners have rebounded with more volume and demands than before.
The sound keeps playing in my head. I try to hide in the walk-in but the line cooks have begun their breakdown and keep coming in. I walk my bike to the river. The students are returning. For the past two days the streets have been clogged with double-parked station wagons piled high with plastic milk crates and comforters.
Now they walk in packs in the center of the road, yell to other packs at doorways of bars. Music spills from open dorm windows. The path along the river is busy, too, full of freshmen with nowhere to go yet. I move slowly, my bike wheels ticking. I pass runners, walkers, and bikers. Two dudes with headbands throw a Frisbee low across the grass. A group of girls lies on the ground and looks up at the moon, which is nearly full.
I used to have this path all to myself at this time of night. A woman runs by me, sweatshirt hood up, fists clenched. We catch eyes just before she passes. Help, we seem to be saying to each other. After the footbridge, the people thin out.
Have they started south already? I find them just before the next bridge, a wide roiling mass of them, snorting and snuffling like pigs. Some are half in the water, wings slapping the surface. Others are pecking the ground. So I read the book. To this day, it is my all-time favorite Pacific theater book. I completely disagreed with them. Often they accused the author, Robert Leckie, of having a great resentment toward leadership and authority.
I did not find that the case at all. In fact, Leckie often praised officers and had great respect for the good ones. In almost every instance, be it the cigars LT Ivy-League stole, or the Japanese footlocker stolen by LT Big Picture, Leckie had every right to be angry and I wonder if any of the people who criticized him would have acted any differently. Another criticized Leckie for drinking and womanizing when he was not in combat. Apparently that reader did not realize that Leckie just like the thousands of other Marines who took liberty Down Under had been on Guadalcanal for 5 months, with nothing but death staring him in the face and not a single woman to lay eyes on, and was now on liberty in the very country he had helped save from invasion, knowing he would be going back into combat soon.
Leckie was no different than many of the other Marines, just more honest about it. I laughed at the part when a Marine was coming back from a rendezvous with a young Australian girl and commented to Leckie that the Australian girls had no morals.
But at other times you will be riveted and saddened by the loss of great heroes like LT Racehorse and many others. May they rest in peace.
To browse Academia.
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He had held daily converse with men who were nothing less than the idols of his newfound comrades. It was quite natural they should ring him round; consult him on everything from pitching form to the Japanese General Staff. The success becomes the sage. Scientists counsel on civil liberty; comedians and actresses lead political rallies; athletes tell us what brand of cigarette to smoke.
But the redhead was equal to it. It was plain in his case what travel and headlines can do. He was easily the most poised of us all. We had been taken from the railroad station by truck. When we had dismounted and had formed a motley rank in front of the red brick mess hall, we were subjected to the classic greeting.
Give youah hearts to Jesus, boys—cause youah ass belongs to me! There were baloney and lima beans. I had never eaten lima beans before, but I did this time; they were cold. The group that had made the trip from New York did not survive the first day in Parris Island. I never saw the blond singer again, nor most of the others.
Somehow sixty of us among the hundreds who had been aboard that ancient train, became a training platoon, were assigned a number and placed under the charge of the drill sergeant who had delivered the welcoming address. Sergeant Bellow was a southerner with a fine contempt for northerners.
It was not that he favored the southerners; he merely treated them less sarcastically. He was big. I would say six feet four inches, two hundred thirty pounds. But above all he had a voice. It whipped us, this ragged remnant, and stiffened our slouching civilian backs.
Nowhere else but in the Marine Corps do you hear that peculiar lilting cadence of command. I never heard it done better than by our sergeant. It was there we were stripped of all vestiges of personality. It is the quartermasters who make soldiers, sailors and marines.
In their presence, one strips down. With each divestment, a Read more. About the author Follow authors to get new release updates, plus improved recommendations. Robert Leckie. Brief content visible, double tap to read full content. Full content visible, double tap to read brief content. Read more Read less. Customers who read this book also read.
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Please try again later. Verified Purchase. This is not an in depth history of the Pacific Theatre of operations, but one man's personal viewpoint and his experiences. He wasn't privy to the "Big Picture", just how the war affected him t a given time. I could not put this book down, it was that good. A definite one for your library or for someone interested in history. One person found this helpful. I had to read a book for one of my history classes and remembered I had purchased this book after watching the pacific.
All pages were read in one day. The book had me from the start. From the descriptiveness of the drill Sargent calls and hollering to the wading through Japanese owned forests listening for the snapping of twigs underfoot to the bombs bursting overhead.
I was very happy with my selection to do this for my assignment and clearly saw the reason why HBO could create a stunningly similar representation to book that Robert Leckie had written. Even if you have watched the HBO mini series, I would still recommend reading this book.
The descriptiveness alone provided for a perfect image in my mind of every place he had been making the book very easy to follow along and imagine the landscape and people who so bravely sacrificed so much. Very good book, although the vocabulary was a little polysyllabic at times for me. You can tell that Leckie was a writer, because occasionally one needs to break out the dictionary when reading this book. It's a further glimpse inside the series, and it is easy to tell that this book was a central book in writing the screen play.
From boot camp to wars end, the story was told in detail how life was back then plus what the soldiers went through. It's hard to criticize the work of a guy who saw action in the Pacific during WWII, so I'll just say that this book really isn't for everybody. Leckie has an almost poetic, flamboyant prose in this that for me made it not as engaging as some of the other books by soldiers, like E.
We cannot thank veterans enough. Amazing account of the war. I don't know why I keep reading books like this because war is so horrible! I guess I read them out of respect and admiration for readers. I don't want to forget the sacrifice they made for humanity. Awesome read from start to finish. A must for any WW 2 buff!!! See all reviews. Top reviews from other countries. In stark contrast to Sledge, Leckie comes across as a rebellious character and admits to having a violent temper.
By this mechanism he feels free to criticise the incompetence and greed of some junior officers without restraint. Leckie fought on Guadalcanal and later in the fetid jungles of New Britain where he suffered from malaria, nocturnal enuresis and an unidentified jungle-bug which made his face and eyelids swell up. He was involved in face-to-face combat with the Japanese who at this stage in the war had not yet adopted the tactics of digging a maze of reinforced tunnels to ambush and kill as many Americans as possible as they later did on Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Japanese soldiers walked the jungles of Cape Gloucester in groups and could be ambushed and fought in the open. Thus HfmP ends rather abruptly, and the narrative does not extend to describing his return home. Taken together, the two books vividly describe from contrasting perspectives and styles the same privations and dangers endured by the marines in the Pacific campaign.
Bob Leckie's book is a bit hard written at start at least for my english level, I had to check the meaning of some words , but is normal as he was a writer before joining the war and after. Later on the book goes easy. His first stories from Guadalcanal are very well introducing to the atmosphere of the war and the Pacific. Then there are his moments as part of the intelligence squad till he's being injured in early Peleliu campaign.
This is yet another book that should be read by those who watched the TV Series about the War in the Pacific, as like the book 'With the Old Breed', this adds to the horrors of war witnessed by those who were in the frontline, and not by those senior ranks who were usually involved in the planning and tactics that were often found to be entirely useless in the type of fighting actually taking place.
If you liked HBO's Pacific mini-series, built for the most part around the memoirs of marine corps privates Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, you'll almost certainly enjoy this book. Sledge's book is almost dry in its clarity, and his language spare. Leckie, a professional writer both before and after his WWII service, is more self-consciously 'literary'.
Both are, a slightly strange thing, to my mind, assiduously polite: so much horror and suffering but, please, no cuss-words! Despite his training, Leckie is a wilful and even sometimes rebellious character, and where Sledge always uses full rank and proper name, Leckie favours nicknames. Such small details and differences give the two memoirs very different flavours. There are moments where Leckie's self-consciously prosey style seems overdone, but sometimes it really works, as when he evokes the paranoid flesh-crawling fears of sitting in a jungle foxhole in the dark of night, his floridly evocative description contrasting with a simpler conclusion: 'I know now why men light fires.
It's certainly interesting to see the differing nature of their responses. In the end these differences make the two books excellent complimentary companions: they cover much the same ground but feel different. Leckie took part in Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester and Pelelieu, whereas Sledge saw action at Pelelieu and Okinawa, so their stories overlap, together building a fuller picture of the Pacific theatre.
Whilst I think it should be noted that the visceral impact of the audio-visual experience is very different from reading about the conflict, nevertheless, as with the HBO series, one marvels at the sheer unrelenting horror of it all. It seems to me good that we have such writings from the 'common soldier'. Both Leckie and Sledge profess horror at the waste of war, and shock at the nature of their Japanese foe. Quarter is never asked or given, the Japanese cult of Emperor worship combining with what was, at that time, an insular and deeply ingrained patriotism, along with a cult of 'death before dishonour' that makes Europe's medieval knights look positively lily-livered.
Leckie says some interesting things about irrationality and courage: 'How much less forbidding might have been that avenue of death that I was about to cross had there been some wholly irrational shout - like 'Vive l'Empereur,' or 'The Marine Corps Forever! Hiii can you please also send me the book that shall not be named to be email please?
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