Of Rice and Men: A Novel of Vietnam

Richard Galli, Author . Presidio $26.95 (355p) ISBN 978-0-89141-885-6

A comic novel about the Vietnam War? Has that much time passed? In fact, this is not the first, but as Vietnam novels go, it's pretty funny. Guy Lopaca arrives in Vietnam fresh out of the elite Army Language School and is assigned to work for civil affairs, units set up to win hearts and minds by providing technical help to villagers. Guy quickly realizes the language he learned from American Ph.D.s bears no resemblance to any spoken in Vietnam, and much of the book recounts his slapstick efforts at communication. Of the 73 episodic chapters, 60 or so feature Guy; other POV draftees include ex-business student Paul Gianelli and aspiring academic Arthur Grissom. To his credit, Galli, a former lawyer and civil affairs interpreter in Vietnam who was a member of GIs for Peace, makes cultural misunderstanding a two-way street. And despite the humor, few characters are comic clichés: no officer is more than mildly incompetent; enlisted men yearn for home but do their jobs, more or less. The war is horrible, but occurs mostly out of sight. This is a clever, quirky, surprisingly uncynical view of Vietnam. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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