July 16, 2009

"Rat Beach" by William Styron

The New Yorker features a powerful short story, "Rat Beach," left behind by the late William Styron (1925-2006), author of Sophie's Choice, about a young Marine second lieutenant training on Saipan in the summer of 1945 to invade Japan.

This fictional story more or less fits with Styron's life: Wikipedia says his troop ship was still in San Francisco Bay when the atom bomb fell, while The Encyclopedia of American War Literature says he was on Okinawa.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Dutch Boy said...

The story reminds me of my army officer father's advice: "Stay away from the infantry!" Or the old Marine Corps pearl: "Why die, get high, go supply!"

Anonymous said...

It's beautifully written. I especially like the bit about Weltschmerz and the snails :-)

"Giant African snails, they were called, and they slid all over the island, numberless, like a second landing force; they woke us up at night and we actually heard them sibilantly dragging their tracks across the flooring and colliding, with a tiny report like the cracking open of walnuts.

The fucking snails were always getting squashed beneath our field boots, making a tiny mess that reminded me of the fragility of my own corporeal being. It didn’t take long for the instruments of modern warfare to turn a human body into just such a repulsive emulsion. Would I be reduced to an escargot’s viscous glob?"

Lucius Vorenus said...

Dutch Boy: The story reminds me of my army officer father's advice: "Stay away from the infantry!"

My grandfather served in the engineering corps in WWI, and one of their duties was to carry the corpses on a train from the front lines back to the rear for burial.

His advice to my father and my uncles: "NEVER VOLUNTEER" [for anything].

Dutch Boy said...

Dear LV: My father's version was: "Keep your mouth shut, you're a__hole open and never volunteer!"