"Well," Elmer said. "You made the big time. Congratulations."
|Ballantine Books, 1975|
Were Americans ever really naïve or is that just something that our collective modern myth tries to convince us of. Personally, I don’t think so. The 60s is a just a duplicitous reflection of history that’s become cliché. The reality depends on where one stood at the time. Were you in the back of the bus? In a segregated school? Were you going to Stanford? Were you one of the multitude (if you believe most aging boomers) at Woodstock waking up to Jimi Hendrix? Or were you carrying a weapon in a jungle on the other side of the world? I was born in the early 60s so none of the tropes were in my radar. For me the 60s was Captain Kangaroo on TV. Coming to age in the 70s I’m the first to admit that my mind went into shutdown mode whenever some pampered suburbanite started waxing poetic about their rebellious youth living a life somewhere between Easy Rider and Woodstock. Especially when I knew they voted for Reagan and both Bushes.I thought most of the crap I heard second hand about the 60s was bullshit slung around by old farts trying to relive some kind of life they saw in the movies. I probably sound the same to others generations after me.
So we have Dog Soldiers, a novel deemed by critics to be an allegory of the waning 60s. Or really, was that Robert Stone’s intention with this book? I have no idea. Clearly it’s a product of his experiences. My recollection of the 70s, when this novel takes place, is of television, skateboards and school. Then girls, sports, pot, going to movies and part-time work at Winn Dixie. I was sheltered from the ugliness of the world mostly, given that ugliness still seeped into the ‘burbs in spite of our parents’ best and failed efforts. So this book is a look at a time and place involving a couple of young wasted lives pursuing a fool’s dream with heroin. The deck is stacked against them, as it is for most of us in this crazy country of movies, music and jingoism. You want to read a good and sordid book about drugs and dreams, then you’ll like this book. I liked this book. I probably read it at the right time in life. Had I read it when I was 25 I might not have cared.