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105. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer. 721 pages. American Literature. Alright, Iíll admit it. Iím on a search for the perfect war novel. This was not it. I would have to say Flags of our Fathers still greatly outshines most of the war books Iíve read. I bought this at Barnes and Noble using a gift card. Its cover read: ďThe best novel to come out of the war, perhaps any way.Ē That is not true The novel is set on a Japanese island. It juxtaposes the protagonists in their military lives with flashbacks to their civilian lives. This is designed to build pathos for the men who are fighting. Ssgt. Croft is a standout lifer-type took in the novel. He is like Hitler insofar as he loves the military, finds himself in battle, and loves to kiss. He is also a heartless piece of work who brings about the death of another protagonist, 2nd Lt. Hearn. Hearn has an attitude. He was like me when I was in the Air Force: disrespectful, questioning of authority, and vocally arrogant way past acceptable levels. He is the generalís adjutant, and General Cummings is no one to mess with, the quintessential nitpicker who rises to the top because he specializes in being fussy about meaningless things like dust under toilet seats, and perfect military lifer. Conflict arises when the lieutenant questions and provokes the not-to-be messed with lifer, who could care less whether his lieutenant lives or dies. This 700 page novel has some good war scenes, but a little long in the tooth about the past lives of its soldiery. In his own introduction, Mailer writes that he was influenced by the genius of Tolstoy, and read parts of Anna Karenina on most mornings before he commenced his own work.Ē Mailer explained he grew to understand that Tolstoy teaches us that compassion is of value and enriches our life only when compassion is severe, which is to say that when we can perceive everything that is good and bad a bout a character but are still able to feel that the sum of us, as human beings, is probably a little more good than awful, it reminds us that life is like a gladiatorís arena for the soul.Ē Well, I read Anna K, and appreciated it for what it was. If Iíd wanted to read another Tolstoyish story, I would have bought one. I was looking for the greatest war story every told, and was bogged down by the Tolstoyian flashback designed to build compassion for the struggling warriors. The Caine Mutiny is still the stand-out WWII novel, by far. **** = Four Stars 

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