FUTURA PRESS INC., Phone 512/442-7836 1714 SOUTH CONGRESS ,P.O. BOX 3485 ALEIN,TEXA*. The Sunshine Soldiers Peter Tauber, The Sunshine Soldier, New York: Simon and Schuster, 262 page, $6.95. By Eric Lax Washington, D.C. “England expects every man will do his duty,” reads one side of the monument in’ Trafalgar Square as Lord Nelson stands atop it all, looking out to sea and toward America. Duty, of course, being to fight and die for God and Country. An admirable notion, perhaps, and certainly one amongst our English heritage which, like Roman law and the pox, has pervaded our lives. But what is one to do in an age when the validity of God and Country is being questioned, when their existence and rightness are doubted or dismissed by those who are called upon by their local draft boards to defend them? “To remain immobile by dint of existential confusion is, in our day, to get drafted,” writes Peter Tauber in The Sunshine Soldiers, a mordantly funny journal ostensibly of Army basic training. Tauber is a 24-year-old New Yorker who, when faced with the draft or flight to Canada or jail “where buggerers and car thieves beat up on you for being less decent than they” chose instead a middle road, the Army Reserves. “Like the hottest places in Dante’s hell, [it] specializes in accommodating those who in times of moral crisis preserve their neutrality. They offer you a better shot at staying alive than anyone else,” he writes. The Sunshine Soldiers is more than an account ,of Tauber’s basic training, or a 1971 version of See Here, Private Hargrove! It is a wise and perceptive commentary on coming of age in American society, a society trying to remain civilized while surrounded by barbarism. IN .TAUBER’S search for what it is that makes an American, he realizes that A review I I “it is not a knowledge of things or even a series of deeds that entitles you to feel American. You have to feel the rhythm in your blood. . . . [but] I lived in a foreign country called New York City and had a nose and a religion that would never let me be President. . . . To rationalize it all, I concentrated on the thought that maybe, just maybe, there’s truth to the notion that to be effective in changing the course of the future one cannot avoid the common experience of one’s generation. I’d done the anti-war thing, the drug thing, the student radical thing. But it had taught me not a thing about anything but where my own head was at, and nothing about the great gray landmass beyond the Hudson. I had traveled the American People’s roads and eaten in their diners, and now, on a bad bet, I was off to see the farthest outpost of their common culture”: Fort Bliss, Tex,. The Sunshine Soldiers reads as easily as if it were being viewed as a movie, and its characters are right out of central casting. Among them are: Major Sheehy, the Catholic chaplain, who preaches that the first example of man’s exercising authority over man was not, as Tauber suggests, Cain teaching Abel the uses of power, but the Ten Commandments, and that, the next instance was the U.S. Constitution. Drill sergeant Dave Wilson, “A huge bronzed blond with a linebacker’s build and close cropped hair. He slowly removes his sunglasses and hat with the air of a man taking off his jacket to give a beating to a cripple,” and Vernon Grbr, “pronounced `Garber’, who likely lost all softness when the vowels fled his last name.” 17-year-old Kid McDonald, who believes a good war keeps the population down and helps the economy. A nameless colonel who goes over the bayonet assault course each night with a metal detector, looking for change which dropped out of trainee’s pockets, “To get enough money to buy my little girl a pony.” CPA .Stan, Tauber’s quick-quipping buddy \(“Every song is anti-war if someone Norman Peyser, the saddest sack of mortal flesh imaginable. “Simple things like walking through a doorway or bending down gracefully escape him. His skeletal structure is amorphous. He stumbles, he trips, he never tries.” Peyser naturally becomes the target of everyone’s animus. Drill sergeants berate him ceaselessly, he becomes the butt of practical jokes, but he never changes. While other trainees improve in the physical fitness exercises, Peyser remains a constant blob. He wallows, he waddles, he wimpers; he is the worst in all of us. AS A REPORTER for the New York Times, Tauber saw “the military expose itself at the Pueblo trial, and learned of the smug, insular world the military has constructed.” Now he discoveres that “the Army doesn’t care. No November 5, 1971 13 Mr. Lax is a freelance writer who lives in Washington, D.C. BUMPERSTRIPS: 4 for 50c, 15 for $1, 100 for $3, 500 for $14, 1,000 for $25. Send check and Zip Code; we pay postage and tax. L
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