Saigon Slumgullion

July 24, 2015 § 2 Comments

slumgullion

Howie Anderson, Floyd Roger, John Ropp – War Zone C, 1969, photo by Tom Vinceguerra. (Note the spices in John Ropp’s hand.)

The One String Violin, the book I am working on with Mark Smith, is almost finished. Finally I put all the sections together and added up the words: way, way too many. Even our most devoted readers might think we had overestimated their patience. So I set about to edit. First to go are all the extra words, of course, but there weren’t that many. I had to cut whole incidents, entire thoughts. Happily, we plan a website where the outtakes will find a home but until I create that I will put a few things here. This is from my epilogue, in which I talk about the process we went through that made it possible for such different people to write a book together.

___

Mark and I share a disdain for stories that focus only on one aspect of the war. Too many books and movies hit only one emotional note –  all horror, or glory, or fury or brutality. Mark says war was 10% terror and 90% boredom. To me, 10% terror is plenty but there is that 90%.

So I learned about the ordinary. I learned about shipping film back and forth and what happens to clothing and skin in the heat and humidity. I learned about the way helmets were decorated and that the letters Mark received from home did not survive because he simply could not carry them around.

I learned, though, that dried spices were worth carrying because they could turn dreary C-rations into a kind of stew they called “Saigon Slumgullion.”

The war was filled with ordinary moments but nothing I could do would make them ordinary to me.

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