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The Suicide Run: Five Tales of the Marine Corps Hardcover – October 6, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This posthumous collection from Pulitzer and National Book Award–winner Styron (Sophie's Choice) is a mishmash of early stories and unfinished novel excerpts that, while interesting as an artifact, adds little to his esteemed oeuvre. A former marine, Styron shows the horrors of war not through battle but through vignettes of men on leave (such as the title story) or in their quarters, struggling with their fate. Blankenship follows a young warrant officer as he investigates the escape of two Marines from a military prison island. Through interrogating another prisoner, McFee, Blankenship learns how deep soldierly ennui can run. Marriot, the Marine is about a writer recalled to duty as a reservist on the eve of his first novel's publication. He finds solace in a superior's love of literature and begins to believe that not all Marines are as brash as his roommate (he of the wet, protuberant lower lip and an exceptionally meager forehead), but the illusion doesn't last long. Styron's prose is as assured as ever and his knack for character is masterful, but the overall moralizing tone—war is debasement—is both too simple and too political to work in these character-driven stories. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Lest we forget, William Styron (1925–2006) was a major American writer, author of such profound novels as Lie Down in Darkness (1951), The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), and Sophie’s Choice (1979). Sadly, he is little read these days. Perhaps this collection of lesser Styron material will stir interest in his earlier works.These five pieces of fiction, referred to as “narrations” (including two previously unpublished), explore Styron’s own experiences as a U.S. Marine. The collection, then, is a taste of his talent and one of his major subject-interests. Straddling fiction and memoir, they work out different contexts of the overall theme of the draw of military life, which obviously enticed Styron himself. For larger serious fiction collections. --Brad Hooper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,713,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I finished these "five tales of the Marine Corps" wishing that Willam Styron had written more, specifically that he had finished the section called "My Father's House," which he wrote in 1985 and was the opening section of a novel never finished. As always with this great writer, these stories convey the complexity of that animal known as a human. The narrator of "My Father's House" is Paul Whitehurst, recently returned to Virginia-- the time is 1946-- from a three year stint in the Marine Corps fighting in "the Good War, that is, the second War to End All Wars" who can see the awful contradiction that, in order to be a good soldier, he has to hate the Japanese enemy, described by his commander as "subhuman," while feeling guilty over his memento of the war, an exquisite gold locket obviously taken from a dead Japanese soldier Paul won from a tipsy warrant officer in a poker game in Saipan. At first Paul thinks the locket is solid gold but then discovers a photograph inside of two little girls "who appeared to be sisters" on a ferryboat. "So I kept the picture in the locket and from time to time stole a peek at the ferryboat children, always making my mind an absolute blank whenever my thoughts began to stray toward the father from whose dead neck my trophy had been torn."

Then there is the specter of race. In "Marriott, the Marine," it is rumored that half dozen or so black people had committed suicide rather than be uprooted from their homes to make way for what would eventually be called Camp Lejeune. And Paul in "My Father's House" has a heated argument with his stepmother Isabel over whether or not a black man convicted of raping a white woman should be executed.
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Format: Hardcover
Suicide Run is a well-written novel by a respected author. I have not read all of his work, but I was deeply impressed by The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice, both of which were extremely good.

In Blankenship, Styron does not delve very deeply into the personalities of Blankenship or the prisoner who drives him beyond his self-constraint. For example, I thought it would have been interesting for Styron to have written something about the prisoner's experiences in World War II, particularly his combat experience.

In one story, one outstanding bit of writing is about a Marine who must defend himself from an attacking house dog while under fire on Okinawa, and who suffers a bad wound with lasting scars from the experience.

Suicide Run contains several observations about the sacrifices people in the military will make in order to satisfy their nonmilitary drives, but then it just ends. A well-written story, which fires the imagination, but in end leaves the reader hanging.

The story about Colonel Merriot was very, very good. A non-military artist recalled to Marine Corps duty meets a Marine officer who is impressively cultured, but who in the end turns out to be a dedicated and committed Marine with a strongly-felt bond to a deceased fellow Marine who is disrespected by the main character. I know something of the feelings the protagonist feels. It's unfortunate that Styron allowed his sense of cultural superiority to military people to tinge the story, but perhaps he intended to show his main character as having feet of clay (although I doubt it - the story and the group of stories simply aren't written that way).
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Format: Hardcover
Originally intended to form the basis of a novel-which Styron abandoned-these five stories of Marine Corps life interlink well and are as absorbing as anything Styron has written.
All set between the brutal Japanese war at the close of WW2, and the call up for the Korean campaign just a few years after,Styron -speaking from personal experience-is uncompromising on the brutalities of war; from killing and seeing your comrades die to the vapid stupidities and mistakes of senior personnel. He notes the real human fear of entering these notorious battles; the desire to live, the trauma of survival with indelible memories of horror.
The stories concern the psyche of a marine; how art literature and gentility are human but uneasy bedfellows for a trade that requires mans most basest instincts to carry out. There is nothing aesthetic about war.
Styron was never prolific.Maybe a streak of perfectionism in him prevented this, but everything he did write is perfect which makes Styron arguably the greatest writer never to have won the nobel prize.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a former Camp Lejeune enlisted marine, 1952-54, I found the author to be somewhat overwrought about his situation there. After all, he was an officer who had many privlidges the peons had none of - the Officer's Club for one. The Suicide Run story was right on - having experienced the same Lejune-NYC, 48 hour pass wacky auto trips. Almost every weekend there were reports of carloads of marines dead in car accidents. I had trouble with his redneck description of Lt Darling Jeeter - I can't imagine a marine officer that dumb, or a least I never met an enlisted ranked marine as such. We also had the same weather he did and I don't remember it as bad as he proported. Parris Island was worse, in case he forgot. I also had trouble with his French converations with a LtCol. If you want better descriptions of USMC, read Eugene Sledge (With the Old Breed) and Robert Leckie (Helmet For My Pillow.) William Manchester's Goodby Darkness is superb.
Robert A. Aherne
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