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Friday, June 27, 2014

Loon by Jack Mclean

A disappointing purchase and way over-priced.

One of the really positive benefits of the self-publishing revolution has been the number of memoirs being published.  Obviously many not polished, but interesting and of considerable historical value.  Some are very good, indeed. Others less so.  This one  felt like a book one expects to have been self published; I looked, and was surprised to see the Random House imprint.Mclean, who was at Andover with George Bush, (of National Guard and cocaine fame,) struggled through Andover and when he wasn’t accepted by Harvard or Yale, or Stanford, was at a loss as to what to do. So he enlisted in the Marines.   He was born just a month before me, so the dates brought back many memories.  Getting out of Parris Island, he was sent to California for a few months to learn supply, much to his relief, but everyone in the Marines eventually wound up in Vietnam, and, sure enough, his orders for that quagmire came through.

Mclean was urged to write this memoir when his wife discovered the letters he had written home over the months he was in Vietnam. The very short section, barely a couple chapters, dealing with the horrific, if futile, experience on LZ Loon, was seemingly thrown in almost as an afterthought, rather than the highpoint (or low-) of his experience, his life even. Clearly the experience of writing for him personally must have been necessary and cathartic, I hope. 

There is a good story in here and perhaps with a good editor, it could have been teased out. Some chapters are very well written but often there was little transition to the next. The book as a whole lacked focus and at times wandered between being critical and stand-up-salute-your-flag bravado. Finding a theme was difficult.   There are many other Vietnam memoirs out there that I feel are much better.  And I got a little tired of hearing that Sid was dead six weeks, two days, several weeks, later. Once has devastating impact.  By the fourth time, it brought a yawn.

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