The Phantom Blooper
CHOICE, Oct 1990

    A sequel to The Short-Timers (1979), continuing the narration of the Joker, a US Marine during the Vietnam War. The blooper of the title, an M-79 grenade launcher, refers ultimately to "our collective bad consciences," and is represented as a Marine defector. Joker himself becomes this renegade after his favorable experiences as a Vietnam prisoner of war in a small village in North Vietnam. Through Joker's narrative, the author, a combat correspondent, advances the thesis that Vietnam veterans were betrayed by their country and that America, in losing touch with the land, has lost touch with reality.  Excessive moralizing at the close by the sardonic protagonist and heavy-handed manipulation of character and plot to serve the thesis undermine the effect of the author's rhetoric and create a reductive narrative.

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