Of Rice and Men
The futility of war. The mire of military bureaucracy. The naive frustration of fresh-faced American grunts. These are themes you’ve seen before — perhaps last fall over popcorn. But unlike the Desert Storm-set Jarhead, Richard Galli’s breezy Nam-com, Of Rice and Men, makes no pretense of putting his soldiers in harm’s way. He follows clerks and specialists who went valiantly to war, but were stationed short of the front line. A safe distance from the gore, these men witness — and participate in — something equally startling: the U.S. military machine at its clankiest. Galli’s hapless GIs fill out forms, haul sand, and plant rice, but mostly they goof off and hone their disillusionment to a knife’s edge. Somehow, though, Galli’s men decamp with their dignity intact — even if they never learn a lick of Vietnamese.