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4.0 out of 5 starsRead or Listen to This Novella If You're a Wolfe Fan
Reviewed in the United States on December 15, 2017
I enjoyed this novella; it has lots of Wolfe's trademark wit, irony, and in-depth research. His best book by far, though, is "A Man in Full," which I consider to be the Great American Novel. Another I highly recommend is "I Am Charlotte Simmons." (BTW, I'm an English teacher and much-published article writer, and, yes, those commas belong inside the quote marks around those titles--which should be in italics, but I can't figure out how to do that in this comment.)
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2000
I'm not going to spend a lot of time telling you not to buy this book. Mr. Wolfe didn't spend much time writing it. Where is the story? I was left thinking HUH?, that's it? Where is the climax? Who was the other guy in the stall. Now if Wolf would have turned that missing witness into a General on the base, who was covering up for the rednecks. WOW. "Honey get the tape recorder, I'm going to write me a book" Don't let the "UNABRIDGED" fool you! This is a short story at best. Thanks Amazon, for letting me vent.
5.0 out of 5 starsEd Norton Hurls Grenades In This Vivid Work; Tom Wolfe Is Fearless
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2009
Edward Norton ably "reads" this novella by Tom Wolfe. This is more than a "reading," this is a performance. Tom Wolfe's works require an actor to "read" them due to his intense love affair with the various accents, slang terms, and diction in America today. Tom Wolfe is a modern day Mark Twain, an astute observer of the beautiful variety of uniquely American characters.
In this novella, Tom Wolfe hits us square between the eyes with the issue of gays in the military. He uses the true story of the murder of a gay soldier by other soldiers at Ft. Bragg to open a huge can of worms - the issue of gays in the military. As with everything Wolfe does, he ably presents both sides of the issue by presenting us not with the arguments, but with the people on each side. What a muddy mess - this is reality we're dealing with.
Wolfe brilliantly illustrates the conundrum of the infantry soldiers - we here at home want them to be gutsy, rough, strong and fearless enough to kill the enemy and keep us safe. However, like a semiautomatic rifle, the same object that keeps us safe can kill the innocent as well. Anyone that has driven down the ugly main strip in any military base town will instantly recognize what Wolfe is describing. At the same time, he skewers the tabloid news magazine characters who we are all familiar with.
No one is innocent here, and maybe no one is guilty. Reading Wolfe's works, I always feel a sense of predestination - of destiny - despite the horrific outcomes, its impossible for the characters to act any other way.
Ed Norton is a one-man ensemble; his performance of the varied characters in this drama is riveting. I commend him for taking on this project. He attacks it with gusto; he must be a devoted Tom Wolfe fan. The subject matter is timely and the issue of gays in the military is unresolved yet as I write this, 12 years after this novella was written.
3.0 out of 5 starsWolfe-Lite, but interesting nonetheless
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2003
Tom Wolfe presents an even-handed tale about a head-twisting attempt of a newsmagazine crew to ambush military men accused of killing a gay fellow soldier. This short story will leave you wondering, "Who actually got ambushed?" The soldiers? The murdered victim? The newscrew? The American public? Possibly everyone. In comparison to other Wolfe works, AMBUSH is relatively shallow. It's still a work that might make a number of other best-selling authors green with envy. Wolfe explores the minds of soldiers and newspeople whose motives and actions are far more complex than they appear on the surface. One would be tempted to initially label both parties in black and white judgements, but Wolfe's rich internal monologues make that difficult. The murder and it's criminal investigation ultimately become secondary to the news story and the circumstances surrounding it. Wolfe's even-handed approach to presenting the complex details of what appears to be an open and shut case will have folks from opposite sides of life react to different details with ire. It's easy to hate the accused rednecks. They're crass, unpolished, crude, and embody every bad southern male stereotype. It also becomes easy to hate the media moguls who twist and torment the story, not because they want justice (they don't REALLY care about gay rights or even solving the crime), but because they want huge ratings. They want their names up in lights. They'd sell their souls for things they don't even believe in. The converse observation of the accused soldiers is that they'd never hide behind false pretense, even to the point of death. The audio book has its own set of issues. Edward Norton's reading certainly hits the mark on tone and atmosphere. He's earnest, but varied in quality. (Given, deep-south--nearly-unintelligible-redneck might not be an easy accent to emmulate, but sometimes it's just painful.) The producers seemed to want to throw in "mood music" at every opportunity, so the listener is bombarded with distracting backdrops of country metal and news-promo orchestrations that add nothing to the overall mix. Please don't let that disuade you from this quick listen (about 180 minutes) is you're interested. Just consider yourself warned. AMBUSH at FORT BRAGG comes recommended to those seeking a quick and engaging tale to fit between your larger listening projects.