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The Naked and the Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition Paperback – August 5, 2000
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“The best novel to come out of the . . . war, perhaps the best book to come out of any war.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Best novel yet about World War II.” ―Time
“Brutal, agonizing, astonishingly thoughtful.” ―Newsweek
“Nightmarish masterpiece of realism.” ―Cleveland News
“Vibrant with life, abundant with real people, full of memorable scenes. To call it merely a great book about the war would be to minimize its total achievement.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The most important American novel since Moby-Dick.” ―Providence Journal
Top Customer Reviews
Norman Mailer writes with a clarity that is often missing from other good novelists. He develops very strong characters and focusses closely on the interactions between them and their environment. Don't expect an action-packed story: The tales here are the soldier's lives and the lack of action is part of war which seems to be very realistically reconstructed.
The story, for what it's worth, follows a band of recon soldiers on an island in the Pacific during World War II. The book opens with the initial assault on the Japanese-held island; it finishes with the quick and anti-climatic (deliberately so) mopping up of the last troups. In between we follow the soldiers' progress through the jungle, go with them on a desperate recon. mission, and learn about their lives through a series of personal flashbacks.
We also see a full range of characters - at all levels in the army - and see their private and semi-private battles with authority. Often the authority in question is an over-demanding or idiotic superior; just as often it is an insolant, stubborn inferior. It is this interplay between the ranks that makes this novel stand out.
The book seems long, but it really is a page turner up with the best of them. At the end of it, you'll be able to say you really enjoyed a work of great fiction.
The setting is a fictitious South Pacific island called Anopopei which is held by the Japanese. The U.S. Army has launched a campaign to take command of the island by landing six thousand troops there to confront the defensive line established by the opposing Japanese General Toyaku. Because this is fictional, I assume that the island is supposed to be a desirable strategic position because the purpose of the mission in relation to the real war is never clearly explained. In charge of the invasion is a Machiavellian General named Cummings who thinks soldiers are motivated best by fear. To defeat Toyaku's line, Cummings devises a plan tailored to the island's particular geography and assigns a reconnaissance squad to the dangerous mission, putting his rebellious and idealistic aide, Lieutenant Hearn, in charge. What the men find out is that the island's natural environment is a more formidable enemy than the Japanese could ever be.
The story focuses mainly on the dozen or so men in the reconnaissance squad. Their personal backgrounds vary greatly, although their personalities don't differ so much that it's easy to tell them apart except by name. The two that stand out the most are Roth and Goldstein, two Jewish soldiers who are made to feel like outcasts due to casual anti-semitism in the squad.Read more ›
I ended up reading the book in the hotel, four hours at a stretch. I was fascinated by it, particularly in seeing so many familiar literary devices originate with this novel. The backstories of the characters were excellent, and I found it to be a compact way of developing the characters and explaining their motivations.
What I particularly liked was the writing style, and the Lieutenant-General struggle was perhaps the real soul of the book. The self-awareness of each competitor, and the misconception of what each was trying to accomplish, was a microcosm of each struggle throughout the book. Every point of conflict was sharply defined through a misunderstanding, a lack of communication, a little misstep here or there, compounding to some surprising and gut wrenching conclusions.
Because the ending was frustrating to me, I found it completely believable and realistic. I can see someone stumbling into a victory; I can see our hero dying due to betrayal; and I can see the flawed, vaguely malignant leader emerge largely unscathed from the chaos.
...I can understand the reservations of some reviewers, but only in an abstract, "right to your opinion" sort of way. For me, this was a 4.5 on a 5-star scale. The only reservation was the self-censoring of certain words and phrases to pass editorial review, something I feel should not be an author's consideration when writing. I can forgive this weakness in a 25 year old Norman Mailer, however. He's certainly earned it.
"The Naked and the Dead" delves deep into the heart of war as it exists in modern times, sparing us the sentimentalism and glorification that plagues most books of the war genre. I would be belittling this book's significance by even assigning it to a specific genre. True, this is a story of war, of the implications of war, the causes of war, and the impact that war has on various types of individuals, from the generals down to a platoon of privates. But first and foremost this is a story about human nature, and how human beings react when pushed to the very edge of their physical and emotional endurance.
While I could go on indefinately listing this book's many favorable attributes, I will spare you my opinions and let you decide for yourself. But do read this book. Do not be put-off by its length, for anything shorter would have done a great injustice to the subject matter.
Norman Mailer, may you live to be 1,000 years old.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I worked with a man who was an infantry officer in the South Pacific during WWII. Sometimes when we were together on business we would swap stories about our service days. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Paddler
SO HE DUTH DIGRESS, DIGRESS, AND DIGRESS. HE JUMPS AROUND ALOT, FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE TOO LONG A TIME.Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
One of the best war stories that I have read. The soldier's inner struggles are all the same regardless of time and place.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Maybe I missed something, but I found the book to be slow and dull.Published 2 months ago by xnycop
Not until the end did I find out that my first Norman Mailer novel was also his first.
What a debut. Brave, complex, difficult at times. Read more
This is very likely the best novel about any war I've ever read. Interesting and insightful. Go for it man.Published 4 months ago by Chris Ahern
I was assigned this novel many years ago in a college course on 20th Century US history, and never read it. After years of guilt, I tried again and thoroughly enjoyed it. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ambrose