Saturday, February 6, 2021

Up Country and Night Fall


I mentioned reading Nelson Demille's The General's Daughter and starting Up Country.  The former was published in leather by Franklin, but I have the latter only in Kindle.  It might seem as though I've abandoned my plan to read and evaluate non-classic editions published in Franklin,  but I discovered in regard to The Reivers which received the Pulitzer in 1963, that "Faulkner died in 1962 and the decision made by the Pulitzer Advisory Board was as much to honor the whole body of Faulkner's writing as it was to recognize the excellence of The Reivers."  Learning this, I've assumed that the Franklin editions of "non-canonical" fiction are not necessarily an author's best. 

Thus, after reading The General's Daughter, I began Up Country.  DeMille saw a lot of combat during the Vietnam War, and so I have been taking the reminiscences of his protagonist, Paul Brenner, seriously; however the novel's pace is rather slow and knowing the novel is a mystery, I have grown impatient wanting him to get on with it.  I took a break from Paul Brenner, switched over to DeMille's John Corey series and read Plum Island and The Lion's Game.  The latter was published a year before the 9/11 destruction of the twin towers and seems prophetic.  DeMille modestly denies having any special ability  as a prophet, and observed, modestly, that a major terrorist attack on the United States in the near future should have been obvious to most people. 

I then began the third John Corey novel, Night Fall, in which John Corey is taking up the mystery of TWA flight 800.  Literary critic, Elizabeth Scarry at the time of the TWA 800 crash was convinced a rocket, probably fired inadvertently from an American submarine shot the plane down, but the official conclusion was that a frayed wire in the center fuel tank caused an explosion.  But there were many eye witnesses at the time who swear they saw something very like a rocket come out of the sea and strike the Boeing 747.   Scarry's articles were published in the NYROB.  I recall reading them at the time.  DeMille is sticking pretty close to what had been reported or determined by the accident board as far as I read. 

I discovered that I was distracting myself in Night Fall (by speculating about what DeMille might be up to) much as what I did in his Up Country.  So I thought it only fair to return to Paul Brenner's Vietnamese quest.  On page 418 (out of 855 -- it's a very long quest) Paul Brenner on his current mission north, attends a Catholic mass in Hue on the anniversary of the Tet Offensive:  "The entire mass and the hymns were in Vietnamese . . ."  I recalled attending mass on Cheju Island off the southern tip of Korea in 1953.  The priest gave the mass in Korean, but then he repeated it in English.  The Koreans all turned around to look at the handful of Marines in the back row.  We spoke to the priest later.  He was priest at that church during the entire Japanese occupation.  I was surprised to learn that the Japanese had left him alone.

No comments: