Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford

Fourth Bantam paperback printing of The Short-Timers from 1988
The Short-Timers was Vietnam veteran Gustav Hasford's first novel based largely on his experiences as a combat correspondent during the war. First published in 1979 to the bestseller list and currently out of print, The Short-Timers was adapted into the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket in 1987 to great acclaim. Kubrick's film largely remains true to the novel with minor differences, and Hasford himself helped pen the screenplay; following an Oscar nomination, however, the amount of Hasford's actual work came under scrutiny by co-writers Kubrick and fellow veteran Michael Herr. At the same time, it was discovered that Hasford had been checking out and never returning books from various university libraries around the country under a phony social security number. Nearly ten thousand stolen books were discovered in his storage locker in California, for which he ultimately paid restitution and served three months in jail. The Short-Timers is a great piece of fiction by itself, and without it Full Metal Jacket couldn't have existed; that said, Hasford's literary career was a short, staggering one that only saw the publication of a sequel to this novel 12 years later (probably written for the money) and a flimsy, unnoticed detective novel published a year before his death. The Short-Timers is without a doubt Hasford's slim masterpiece, and supports believers of the notion that some writers only have one good book in them.

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