Brash, eye-opening, and surprisingly comic, Of Rice and Men displays the same irreverent spirit as the black-comedy classics Catch-22 and MASH, as it chronicles the American Army's little known "Civil Affairs" soldiers who courageously roam hostile war zones, not to kill or to destroy, but to build, to feed, and to heal. Unprepared, uncertain, and naive, they find it impossible to make the skeptical population fall in love with them.
But it's thrilling to watch them try.
Among the unforgettable characters: Guy Lopaca, an inept Army-trained interpreter who can barely say "I can't speak Vietnamese" in Vietnamese, but has no trouble chatting with stray dogs and water buffalo. Guy's friends include "Virgin Mary" Crocker, a pragmatic nurse earning a fortune spending nights with homesick soldiers; Paul Gianelli, a heroic builder of medical clinics who doesn't want to be remembered badly, so he never goes home; and Tyler DeMudge, whose cure for every problem is a chilly martini, a patch of shade, and the theory that every bad event in life is "good training" for enduring it again.
Pricelessly funny, disarming, thought-provoking, as fresh as the morning headlines, and bursting with humor, affection, and pride, Of Rice and Men is a sincere tribute to those young men and women, thrust into our hearts-and-minds wars, who try to do absolute good in a hopeless situation.
©2006 Richard Galli; (P)2006 Books on Tape
"This is a clever, quirky, surprisingly uncynical view of Vietnam." (Publishers Weekly)
"The novel unfolds with beguiling tenderness, humor, and wisdom." (Booklist)
It has that quirky MASH type of humor, and I think the author did a really good job. It was a funny book, and you grow fond of the characters the same way the author did. What I want to know though is whether the the main character ever married Virgin Mary. I kind of felt the author should have done a what they are doing now speil at the end of the book.
Ultimately this story went nowhere. Its a story of the peace corps in Vietnam, except they are in the army, non combat types, during the war told through the eyes of a couple of characters.
The theme is kind of interesting and the author has some writing skill but ultimately the undeding series of largely unrelated incidents an the unrelenting sensitive new age approach left me feeling the book had nothing interesting to say. And I say that even though I share some of the sentiments. My wife felt the same way and neither of us finished it.
Wonderfully read, with just the right amount of irony in the narrator's voice. I agree with the other reviewers who compared this to Catch-22, although I found it less bitter. Ironic and wry, yet compassionate in its treatment of war's idiocies.
This book is a beautiful example of how anger and bitterness can be transformed into a gentle, often funny, but no less critical look at the insane historical fact of the Vietnam war. The characters, their relationships, their surprising depth -- all are rendered with a quiet push at our assumptions and a not-so-quiet poke at the ridiculous way the military approached this situation. Bravo.
rage against the machine
This novel is to the Vietnam War as the movie (not novel it is far to dark) catch 22 is too WW II. From the very beginning the tone of the novel is set. “A War is not worth fighting without a liberal arts education.” Guy Lopaca. With the world seemingly falling apart around us (internationally speaking) this novel alloys the population of the United States a chance to laugh about a dark chapter of our history…..enjoy
"Life's not much fun fighting without liberal arts education", or something along these lines, is the epigraph, and it really says it all about the book: a humorous, at times irreverent, look at the gory and pointless war from a viewpoint of a bunch of college-educated REMFs. Although there seems to be no plot line as such - the book is made up of short episodes related mostly by the theme and the characters - it's captivating and hard to switch off from.
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