Knee Deep in Hooah

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Knee Deep in Hooah

JUNE 9, 2009

Book Review – LOON, A Marine Story

Deltab5 cutting in …

One of the nice perks on having a famous wife blogger are the pre-published books you get sent for review. The publishing companies are trying out various forms of pre-release PR these days. Milblogs get some share of that pie. This blog gets noticed and wammo! My evening reading is all set for the next few weeks.

Presidio Press is our latest donor of good stuff. They sent Claire the book “LOON, A Marine Story” by Jack McLean. My fist thought was to send it to Hank. After all. He IS a marine. But being the greedy bastage that I am I went with my second thought which was to read the book myself “then” send it to Hank. Maybe.

Even though most advance uncorrected proofs can be painful to read this one was not. I imagine it will be all the better once it has received it’s final polish.

The LOON is the personal recollection of McLean’s adventure from childhood/young adulthood to manhood through the fire of Landing Zone Loon on Vietnam’s Laotian border. Those familiar with military history will recognized Landing Zone Loon immediately. The rest of you will have to wikipedia it.

I have to be honest. I was not initially thrilled with another Vietnam book. I was especially not thrilled with a Vietnam book that I thought was going to draw some politically left leaning parallels between current conflicts and Vietnam. I know this contradicts my earlier statements on being greedy enough to keep the book for myself before passing it on to Hank. What can I say. I’m human. Therefore I contradict.

What drew me into this particular book was the authors rendition of Marine basic combat training or “boot” as he calls it. Having went through combat training as a self aware adult I am always interested in hearing the accounts of others. This book also gave me an account from a differing yet similar branch. No offense but if the account were of Coast Guard basic training I would been less likely to get drawn into the book at all. Yet drawn in I was. I found his account of the Marine basic training from yesteryear (I understand it has changed considerably but I’ll let Hank fill you in) fascinating. McLean came from a very well off well to do family. Therefore a privileged young man’s view was additionally of interest for me.

The middle of the book lagged a little in my opinion. Transitioning from advanced training and into actual deployment took almost as long for the author as real deployment. And was just as uninteresting. There were a couple of nuggets of gold tucked away as vignettes during the transition but for the most part the middle is the slowest read. THEN we get to the end of the book in it’s account of deployment. That was fast reading for me. That was followed by the authors account of discharge from active duty once his contract was complete. That was also very fast reading for me. Reading his transition out of the Marines was also gut wrenching at points owing to my own transition out of the Army and having to leave friends behind yet also feeling as if I’d left something undone. Forever undone. For the author that feeling was much deeper than my own brief experience. Yet is was a point of similitude that kept me with the story.

That being said, you do not have to have ever served in the military to read this book. But it helps. I’m not sure what the author will do about that as it almost can not be avoided. He’s already put as much of his experience into general language for the non-military reader as is, I think, practicable. What to do. What to do. Fortunately that’s what publishing editors are for.

The only thing I really did not like about the book was its very end. I certainly did not mind the book ending. I just didn’t like the shades of political partisanship that I thought were being drawn. I also didn’t like the idea that in some senses the author did not in the end rise above his generation as one would have expected but rather he became one of them. That, I think, makes his affair more akin to the anti-hero who in the end … does not overcome.

I won’t give it all away. I will say that he did go on to get his degree at Harvard. I will also say that I found the end of the book to be awkward. Not all who read it will agree. I think the author would vehemently disagree. Then again, maybe not. Maybe the book “is” his way of finally dealing with it all and rising above his peer group where he belongs. Because he is better than they. The privileged Harvard pansies he finally graduated with following his discharge from active duty didn’t deserve to be in the company of this Marine. The Harvard pansies then, as now, are too stupid to know it.

Oorah Mr.McLean. Good book all in all. I recommend it for fast leisurely reading. Auto-biographical in nature, it strikes just the right pace without getting bogged in any pedantic analysis of any kind (even though I still think the middle was a bit slow).

Now I’ll mail it out to Hank and we’ll see what HE has to say about it …

…Deltab5, Out.

More reviews... © Jack Mclean 2013