Sunday, March 26, 2017

from My Detachment by Tracy Kidder

I had mixed feelings about . . . a young Spec. 4 who improbably enough, had come across a paperback copy of The Brothers Karamozov and had wrestled with it to its end. I don't think he'd finished high school, but I never met a more ardent reader. Periodically, he'd yell, "I'm not readin' this fuckin' book anymore!" and hurl it across his hootch. Half an hour later he'd be on his hands and knees reassembling the scattered pages. . . . I thought we had a bond.

Then one night in the drinking hootch, someone was talking about the Americal Division patch, which depicted the stars of the Southern Cross, and I piped up and said that, speaking of stars, the light from many of them was so old that the stars themselves no longer existed, and that was because, in proportion to their distance from us, light didn't travel all that fast.

"It's pretty fast," the Dostoevsky reader said.

Well, I replied, we human beings couldn't reach most parts of the universe even if we could travel at the speed of light, which we couldn't.

"Oh, yeah? Why?"

"Because mass can't travel the speed of light," I said. . . . "That's Einstein's theory of relativity," I added.

"I don't give a fuck whose theory it is!" He was practically yelling. "Maybe you can't go the speed of light, but don't fuckin' tell me what I can't do!"

* * *

from "Fragging" by Michael Casey

this kind of crime
is getting to be epidemic
it must be catchy
and it's entirely
from electromagnetic disturbances
in the atmosphere
like I'm dumb he yells out
sunspots sunspots

* * *


Maureen said...

I am struck by so many of the references that have been popping up in your posts about Vietnam and that apply to my brother, who was in the Americal division.

I thought I'd read all of Kidder's work but this is one that's missed my attention. I'll have to look for it.

Dawn Potter said...

It's worth reading: the memoir of a young lieutenant not on the front lines but nonetheless immersed in his own kind of hell. It's a good summary of what it means to be the officer who is the most like an enlisted man . . . which would also have been my uncle's situation.

David (n of 49) said...

That one's new to me too, Dawn. Thanks for posting from it, and from the others. I hope they're feeding you what you need.