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The Short-Timers Hardcover – 1979

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1st edition (1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060117826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060117825
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 8, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In a note of "Atrocity Exhibition" James Ballard - referring to the act - said that "no kinaesthetic language has yet been devised to describe it in detail, and without one we are in the position of an unqualified observer viewing an operation of brain surgery". "Atrocity" was Ballard's attempt to devise such language. And Gustav Hasford's "The Short Timers" (the basis for Stanley Kubrick's movie "Full Metal Jacket") is much more than a deeply personal portrait a soldier's life in Vietnam: it's the successful effort to give us a prose adequate at describing the world of battle and fear - "like you've really seen beyond". As every great writer, Hasford was a language's creator
Written over a period of seven years (Hasford started collecting notes while he still was a Marine in Vietnam, as combat correspondent for the First Division), "The Short Timers" is divided into three chapters. The first ("The Spirit of the Bayonet") covers Private Joker basic training at the Marine Recruit Centre in Parris Island, circa 1967. This is the part of the movie everyone remembers, ironically thanks to the performance of real life DI Lee Ermey - a guy who reportedly embodied everything Hasford hated - as Sgt. Hartmann, the ultimate drill instructor. While Kubrick approach to the subject was admittedly enthralling, Hasford's original is an object lesson on how to forge words into a butcher's knife. The prose is lucid, almost bitterly simple: Private Pyle's now famous downfall is recorded without even a glint of mercy. Joker (and Hasford) recognise that this is not the "I'm-only-rough-on-'um-because-I-love-'um" cliché of Hollywood movies, but we see that this ritual debasement is working on him as well.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Grant Waara VINE VOICE on April 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book when I was a Marine ('81-'85). It remained with me then and it remains with me now. I've now read it at least three times and I had forgotten what a wonderfully powerful novel Mr. Hasford crafted. I heard that it took him seven years effort and though it's only a brief 180 pages, it's simple, yet dense. You can read and re-read passages for the pure mastery of the english language Mr. Hasford has so painstakingly done here.
Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" is a wonderful film, but reading the "Short-timers," I came away with a different vision. Nowhere is this more true that the recruit training sequence ("The Spirit of the Bayonet") where the training Joker and Cowboy go through is particularly sadistic. I only thank God that my own boot camp experience wasn't anywhere near as harrowing.
One last thing, some reviewers say that the novel's ending is even more bleak than "Full Metal Jacket" and they are right. To tell more would, I think, spoil the book's effect. If you can find this, read it. I got lucky and found a copy for very cheap. If you're a former Marine, don't be surprised if you find many similarities between the Corps of '68 and whenever you served. Don't be further surprised and find yourself rereading it again and again.
I've since found out that Mr. Hasford died in 1993. What a shame. While he has co-authored the screenplay as well as wrote two other novels, none has ever approached "The Short-timers." At least with this masterpiece, he wrote one for the ages.
Get some Mr. Hasford. Ooorah!!!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kenney on May 9, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This must be the best Vietnam War novel I've read. It's a perfect piece of literature. The writing is incredible. Poetic, sharp, and to the point. I've read great things about Stephen Wright's "Meditations in Green" and O'Brien's "Going After Cacciato." I've read both of those books. They're excellent, but neither of them hold a candle to Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers. The irony being, of course, that this novel is little-known, and not even in print.
Written from the point of view of combat journalist Corporal Joker, the book reads as if it's narrated by one of the Marines Michael Herr followed around in "Dispatches." That same dark sense of humor is in place, that same tone of voice that one moment is expounding on something profound, the next joking about something mundane. Hasford was a vet, he was a Marine in the middle of it all, and his words drip with realism. But there is a surreal aspect to the book as well, as is expected from any Vietnam novel worth its salt. The fate of Rafter Man, as well as the delusional sequence in which Joker believes he's been killed, are macabre bits of surrealism that leave a lasting impression.
The book is spilt into three connected novellas. The first two, "Spirit of the Bayonet" and "Body Count," were adapted by Stanley Kubrick for his film "Full Metal Jacket." However, the final novella in the book, "Grunts," which details Joker's experiences in the besieged Khe Sahn base, rivals the Do Lung Bridge sequence in "Apocalypse Now," and it's a shame Kubrick didn't include this section in his movie.
To increase the impact of the prose, Hasford writes in present-tense. His sentences are lean and mean, making the book a quick read (it's also very short). All of this just makes me scratch my head.
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