Current book: The Naked and the Dead
Pages read: 555-720 (end)
Well, Hearns got shot trying to get through the pass a second time, and the injured guy got carried miles and miles through the jungle, at great physical and psychological cost to his stretcher-bearers, only to die when they had almost arrived back at the beach. Awesome. The invasion itself, however, was extremely successful; the U.S. took the island and eradicated all Japanese forces, after which it seemed like everyone would get to go home. (There was also a whole bit with a crazy sergeant leading the platoon futilely up a mountain, during which one guy fell to his death Whitewater Summer style. (Yes, I'm making a comparison with a bad Kevin Bacon movie. What of it? Don't pretend you didn't love Whitewater Summer.))
The end is obviously supposed to be playing up the "What is it all for?" angle. I respect that, and in the microcosm of one Pacific island, it makes a lot of sense. You could even say that it applies to a majority of wars, perhaps, especially of the brand we've been having since World War II. That said, I think Mailer is in error when he refuses to acknowledge that wars have reasons behind them that sometimes justify the great personal costs to the participants. It's not that he makes an argument against that justification, but to some extent he denies it by omission.
It was a realistic portrait of tropical combat. One of the best 100 novels ever written? Doubtful. But then, 700 pages of war narrative, no matter how well written, will probably never make my top 100 list.
Tomorrow, mysterious falcon sculptures. Too bad I already know the twist ending. The Maltese Falcon is people!
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