Thursday, March 29, 2007

SHOPPING CART SOLDIERS

Sometimes regular trawling through cheap and secondhand bookshops pays off. Yesterday I found John Mulligan's "Shopping Cart Soldiers", an autobiographical novel about Vietnam and the subsequent ordeal faced by the author on his return to America. The first 40 or so pages I have read are so harrowing, the word "harrowing" is inadequate to describe them. It's more like a fierce and unexpected punch in the gut followed by a hammerblow to the head. I sat in the benjo this morning reading his account of the moment where he kills his best friend to honour a pact they made to spare each other the horrors of dying slowly, and I actually almost wept--which is something I really don't make a habit of doing. The description is so vivid and so emotionally charged it reminded me of watching my own mother die, ten years ago, from cancer--probably a more tortured and undignified death than going with a bullet.

Any work of art that transforms your own emotions so dramatically is a great work, as far as I'm concerned. But don't look for this book if, as Dylan says, you "like (your) sugar sweet." This is bitter as a drink of warm poisoned water in Hell. Which is where John Mulligan was, and what he survived. An example to all of us who think we've got it tough.

6 comments:

tom said...

we have a used bookstore around a 120 miles from here that has been a treasure trove for us - a huge section of poetry - always a new discovery when i go there - i'll keep an eye out for that book

thanks

Humour and last laugh said...

very true. such writings are precious.

Bruce Hodder said...

Tom,
Used bookstores are my favourite places to be. I can't stand most of the new ones!
Let me know what you think of the Mulligan, if you find it...

Bruce Hodder said...

Welcome to the page, Humour!

Glenn said...

The trick with second hand book stores is to look for stapled spines -- for the staples are the sure sign of the small press or self publisher. That's how I find the good stuff: look for the staples!

tom said...

hey!