Mr. Woodrell passes through worlds that, when rendered with the most rigid naturalism, seem surreal. I am very pleased that he has chosen to take up with the time and place and circumstance of this story. It's a tale too little told, and Woodrell happens to have just the ear and the memory to breathe life into it.
There must be phases in the history of every empire when a good portion of its soldiery come to consider soldiering asinine. Nearing the end of the Vietnam war, the American armed forces were beginning to fill with conscripts and enlistees whose enlistments were less than perfectly voluntary. Many of these were to serve as shit birds, a feckless species especially repulsive to the old guard. While forebears of the genus are mentioned in every detailed military history, they must have been especially prevalent and obnoxious at a time when the mother culture was temporarily, childishly enamored of asking, "Why?"
As shitbirds we learned that posing so difficult a question in certain company would not only be futile, but certainly unpleasant, possibly dangerous. As a shirt bird emeritus now, Woodrell has, I think, continued curious. In this, as in his previous undertakings, Mr. Woodrell has a marvelous capacity for writing things exactly as he has found them, but not accepting them that way. For me this is truly some useful bellicosity.
The talent displayed in this snapshot is very apparent. I can't wait to read the full novel.