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The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up Paperback – 1981

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Paperback, 1981
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Avon Books (1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380603012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380603015
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,075,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Nell Warren on June 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
Labelled "fiction," this book has a hair-raising feel of the author having been there...in that war we remember as Vietnam. "Gripping" is an understatement, as the narrator (a young Marine medic) whipsaws schizophrenically between loving men's bodies while on R & R and working frantically to heal men's mutilated bodies while on duty. Among the war memoirs with gay themes that I've read, I rank it #2 after T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." The book also leaves one with a realization that all the current hoohah about "gays in the military" is peacetime mickey-mouse. In wartime, it seems that the brass don't care who sleeps with whom, as long as the troops get the job done. This searingly honest and uncomfortably original novel deserves to be back in print and made into a film.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on June 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up," by Charles Nelson, is a novel that follows the military and sexual adventures of Kurt Strom, a gay professional baseball player who serves as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman with Marines during the Vietnam War. The story is told in a series of letters from Kurt to his loved ones. Through Kurt's letters, the reader follows him from his family home in Louisiana to training at Camp Lejeune and to the war zone in Vietnam.

Kurt's Vietnam service includes time at both a hospital and with a front-line unit, as well as duty with a special unit designed to work with local Vietnamese militia and civilians. These diverse experiences result in a rich and complex set of encounters with both U.S. military personnel and Vietnamese people. The story offers a fascinating look at the various levels of the U.S. military presence in Vietnam.

This is a big, bawdy, outrageous novel that reeks with the smells of sex and violence. Kurt himself is a fascinating and very "politically incorrect" character. He is certainly no noble poster boy for gays in the military. On the contrary, he is lusty and sexually aggressive--just the type of amoral predator that inspires antigay fear. He also has a nasty racist streak that comes out in the form of many foul slurs and slams. Kurt's language is richly spiced with many cultural references, both "high" and "pop"--this, combined with his frequent Wildean comments, gives the book a remarkable flavor.

Through his protagonist, Nelson delves into the psychology of both military homophobia and military homoeroticism. It's an unflinching and sometimes graphic look at male-on-male sexuality in a wartime environment. The sex in the book is at times a site of abuse, dishonesty, and conflict.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jack M. Walter on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a powerful novel that starts out very mildly and picks up to the point where the narrator's experiences in Vietnam are seen in a poignant and humanitarian light. Then, the overload occurs and the horrors of war takes its toll. The author accomplishes this with such a deft touch, you don't realize the path the novel takes until it is over. ....
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dave Marsteller on April 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
READ THIS BOOK! Get your hands on it and I promise,you won't put it down until you are done... and even then you'll goback and re-read it!
Perhaps one of the most moving texts I've everread, the correspondence style was truly evocative of the relationship that the Kurt the protragnist has with his family, friends and comrades in arms. Nelson has created a life that is fully three dimmensional and naturally handles the issues of fear, hope, death, stigma management (of gay identity) and ok... I'm being far too cerebral about a book that moves one so deeply...
Truly this book should be: 1. reprinted... 2. read by everyone... 3. Might make an interesting movie or stage production... END
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jaromir Benesch on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
I write only to add what other reviewers appear to have missed about this fine novel. Of course, it can be read on many levels ncluding a serious critique of the racism and inhumanity of the American troops in the Viet Nam War, but Nelson used the epistolary style to show how American gay men in the seventies compartmentalized their lives. The protagonst, Kurt. has revealed ("is out") his sexual orientation only to his gay friend Paul. Only to Paul can he write about his full personhood including his very joyous sexual seductions. To his other three correspondents, famly members and a close heterosexual friend, he writes as if he were a straight man. He wrtes dutifully about the horrors of being a medic at war. Nelson wanted to show the devastation on an individual caused by the forced compartmentalization (I have correspondence with him which states that as his goal.) Today we might describe Kurt as being in the closet, but actually it is society that has locked Kurt in. He can have sex with other soldiers; he just can't say he is gay. He can't even consider a relationship. Naturally he is filled with anger and hate which explodes manly in his racism. No other contemporary American gay novel reveals such an insight into the life of a gay man at that time.
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