I realize the author is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was a Marine Corps officer in 1969. I'm aware he was a Rhodes Scholar who entered the Marine Corps following his graduation from Oxford University one year before William Jefferson Clinton graduated the same place. I greatly admire these two accomplishments of Mr. Karl Marlantes, the author of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
. This March 2010 book was published by Atlantic Monthly Press. I read it on my Kindle over a two month period. It took this long because I continually stopped reading because of my dread to continue. However, I persevered and finished it while vacationing in Alexandria, Virginia a couple weeks ago.
The book is over the top with exaggerations. I can verify that leeches in the jungles of Vietnam were bad and would attach to tender body parts to suck blood from infantrymen at night, but, entering a man's urethra, attaching itself, and blocking urine flow? I don't think so. This was described early in the book as a marine reached an emergency backup of urine which required his buddies to slice the man's penis to remove the leech. Urine and blood spewed over everyone involved during the procedure in the field.
The book says, "half the company came from broken homes and had wives or parents who were drunks, dope addicts, runaways, prostitutes, or child beaters."
2nd Lieutenant Waino Mallas, USMC Reserve, the main character described his Marine company by saying, "... They all talked the same, too, say f**k, or some adjective, noun, or adverb with f**k in it, every four words." "Mellas had gone to some fancy private college and graduated second in his class at the Basic School."
The 592 pages of Matterhorn
teem with gutter language throughout. Here is a count of some profane and vulgar words used: f**k 209 times, f**ker 32, f**king 654, motherf***er 44, p**s, 20, s**t 274, Godd**n 99, ni**er 25, b*tch 15, and bast**d 31. These statistics were computed using my Amazon Kindle.
These words and other derogatory language average 3 or more times per page. The author actually served in Company C, First Battalion, Fourth Marines of the Third Marine Division (Reinforced) in 1969. If his experiences formed and shaped his foundation for writing this novel, then his words reflect poorly on the officers and enlisted men who served in that marine company at that time.
Here is the frequency of other words used in the book: freedom 1, honor 7, honorable 0, truth 6, love 14, devotion 0, duty 31, thanks 43, praise 1, goodness 0, South Vietnam 3, General Westmoreland 0, Robert McNamara 0, Ho Chi Minh 2, Hue 2, President Thieu 0, Vietnam 69, Ho Chi Minh Trail 0, DMZ 14, Paris Peace Accords 0, and Richard Nixon 0.
The stories and dialogue among and between these Marine officers and enlisted men should not be used to characterize the Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel who served throughout Vietnam. I was a Private First Class infantryman in the Army in VN in 1966. My experiences and observations with enlisted men and officers did not come close to what is described in the behaviors around Matterhorn
The book is about a Marine junior officer and his perception of inferior military personnel. Lieutenant Mallas becomes a hero by bringing out the best he could in the men he had to work with.
Have a good week!