9780099518631

Special Providence

Yates, Richard

ISBN 10: 0099518635 / 0-09-951863-5
ISBN 13: 9780099518631
Publisher: Vintage Books USA
Publication Date: 2008
Binding: Softcover
About this title:
Synopsis:
Bobby is eighteen and lost on the battlefields of Europe, stumbling his way through World War II. He has turned out to be the heroic soldier he imagined and his experience of battle principally involves fear and confusion. Back home, his mother Alice puts all her hopes in her son, and dreams of his return and starting a new life for them both. Richard Yates' novel is both tender and ironic as he follows Bobby's adventures and disasters and reflects on the intense but complicated bond between mother and son.

About the Author:
Richard Yates was born in 1926 in New York and lived in California. His prize-winning stories began to appear in 1953 and his first novel, Revolutionary Road, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. He is the author of eight other works, including the novels A Good School, The Easter Parade, and Disturbing the Peace, and two collections of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Liars in Love. He died in 1992.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One"Com-mence--fire!"The blast of rifles shocked his ears, right and left; he squeezed the trigger and felt the stock of his own rifle drive hard into his shoulder and cheek, and then he fired again.They were lying prone on a damp Virginia ridge, firing down across a dismal slope of weeds at a simulated enemy position several hundred yards away--a group of crude wooden house fronts flanked by clumps of trees. Gray silhouette targets darted in and out of view at the windows and came irregularly up from foxholes among the trees, and at first Prentice didn't aim at them very precisely: the main thing seemed to be to keep firing, to get off as many rounds as the men on either side of him. But after a few seconds the tension eased off and he became both careful and fast. It was exhilarating."Cease fire! Cease fire! All right, fall back. Everybody back. Second squad, let's go. Second squad up on the line."Prentice locked his rifle, got up, and stumbled back down the ridge with the others to where a small, painstakingly built campfire was struggling for survival. He made his way into the huddle of men surrounding it and found a place to stand beside John Quint."Think you hit anything, Deadeye?" Quint asked him."A couple, I think. I'm pretty sure I got a couple, anyway. You?""Hell, I don't know."It was the last afternoon of the week's bivouac that was the climax of their training. Any day now they would be shipped out for overseas processing, and the company's morale could not have been lower, but Prentice had begun to feel an unreasonable elation. It pleased him to know that he hadn't bathed or changed his clothes for six days, that he was learning to handle his rifle as an extension of himself, and that he'd taken part in elaborate field problems without doing anything noticeably absurd. A pleasant little spasm of shuddering seized him; he squared his shoulders, set his feet wider apart, and briskly rubbed his hands together in the woodsmoke."Hey Prentice," said Novak, who had been watching him from the other side of the fire. "You feeling pretty sharp today? You feeling like a real fighting man?"This caused a chuckle around the group, and Cameron, a big Southerner who was Novak's friend, did his best to keep it going. "Old Prentice gunna be a regular tiger, ain't he? Jesus, I'm glad he's on our side."He tried to ignore them, continuing to rub his hands and stare down into the weak flames, but the sound of their bored, easy laughter had spoiled his mood.Hardly any of the men in his platoon were less than five years older than Prentice; some were thirty and a few were nearly forty, and a more surly, less amiable crowd he could never have imagined. Like him, they had all come to Camp Pickett from other branches of the service--this whole training regiment, in fact, was what the Army called an Infantry Re-Tread Center--but there was a considerable difference between his case and theirs. He was a veteran of nothing more than six weeks of mild and pampered training as an Air Force recruit, followed by a shapeless month of work details in something called a Casual Company; the others were all old-timers. Some were from recently dissolved Anti-Aircraft units, in which they had idled for years at the gun emplacements around West Coast defense plants; some were from Ordnance or Quartermaster depots; there were ex-cooks and ex-clerks and ex-orderlies, and there were washouts from various officer-candidate schools. Many of them were noncoms in line or technical grades and continued to wear their impotent chevrons, but all of them--every foulmouthed, hard-drinking, complaining one of them--had in common the miserable fact that their good deals, their months or years of military safety were over. They were replacement riflemen.And if Prentice had entertained any notion of being called "Bob" or "Slim" or "Stretch" by these men, of relaxing with them in the easy camaraderie of his Air Force days, it was a hope he'd had to abandon at once. They called him "Kid" or "Junior" or "Prentice" or nothing at all, and their general indifference had soon turned into a contemptuous amusement.On the very first morning, late for Reveille and sleepily fumbling with his unfamiliar infantry leggings, he had put the damned things on backwards, with the hook lacings on the inside rather than the outside of his calves; he had taken four running steps across the barracks floor before the lacing hooks of one legging caught the lace of the other, and down he came--all gangling, flailing six-foot-three of him--in a spectacular lock-legged fall that left his audience weak with laughter for the rest of the day.And thereafter he had gone from bad to worse. He was incurably clumsy at close-order drill; he couldn't perform the manual of arms without an unsightly dipping of his head when he wrenched open the rifle's chamber; in the field his spindly, ill-coordinated body was put to tests of reflex and endurance that seemed wholly beyond its powers, and he repeatedly floundered and failed.Worse still, he found himself unable to accept his defeats with any kind of grace. He would rise from each humiliation with a mouthful of shrill obscenities, trying by sheer verbal unpleasantness to beat these laughing bastards at their own game, and the result of this was to lower him still further in their esteem. An all-around incompetent was bad enough, and a wet-behind-the-ears young twerp of an incompetent was worse; but when he turned out to be a little wise guy too--when he swore not only in bad temper but in what sounded like the clipped, snotty accents of a spoiled rich kid--that was too much.And then one morning after bayonet drill, when the company was marched into a stifling clapboard building for its weekly I. and E. lecture, he found a way in which his luck might possibly begin to change. The lecture was as tedious as ever: first a documentary film, thunderously identified on the screen as one of the Why We Fight series, which explained the evils of Nazi Germany in simple-minded words and pictures; then a droning talk by a bored-looking second lieutenant who explained it all over again, and then the question period.A man several seats away from Prentice got up to raise a question--a quiet ex-Ordnance man from Idaho whom he'd sometimes noticed smoking a pipe in the post library, a man named John Quint--and from the moment he began to talk Prentice sat spellbound."I'd like to take issue, sir, with one or two of the points made in the movie just now. Actually, they're things I've noticed cropping up time and again in the Army's indoctrination program, and I think we might do well to examine them a little more closely..."It wasn't what he said that mattered, though all of it was interesting and thoughtful; it was the remarkable ease and confidence of his delivery. Here was a man who couldn't have been more than twenty-four or five--and a bespectacled, almost prissy-looking man at that, a man whose vocabulary and enunciation clearly marked him as "cultivated"--and without the slightest compromise, without any hint of talking down to them, he was holding the respectful attention of every muscle-headed slob in the room. He even got a few laughs--not by any clumsy descent into G.I. humor, but by urbane and witty turns of phrase that Prentice would have thought to be miles over their heads. Hooking his thumbs in his cartridge belt, courteously turning from one section of his audience to another as his glasses gleamed in the lights, he was using words like "ludicrous" and "corruptible" with the dark sweat of the day's bayonet drill still staining his back: he was proving that you didn't have to be a lout to be a soldier.When he finished and sat down, there was a spatter of applause."Yes," the lieutenant said. "Thank you. I think that was very well put. Are there any other questions?"That was all, but it was enough to give Prentice a sharp new focus for his yearnings. He knew what he wanted in the Army now. The hell with this childish nonsense of being "liked" or "disliked," of being "accepted" or not. All he wanted now, beyond a certain basic competence, was to be as intelligent and articulate as Quint, as independent as Quint, as aloof from the Army's indignities as Quint. He very nearly wanted to be Quint, and at the very least he wanted to get to know him.But the fool of the platoon could hardly buddy up with its one and only intellectual--not, at least, right off the bat. It was a thing that would have to be pursued very cautiously, and with no visible effort at pursuit.It began that very evening, when he strolled over to Quint's bunk for a desultory chat and was careful to walk away again before there could be any hint of his imposing. Several nights later he saw Quint reading in the library but thought better of going over to start another conversation, though he was careful to display the title of the rather highbrow book he was carrying, in case Quint happened to look up as he passed by on his way to the charge-out desk. Then, luckily, the company began its week of training on the rifle range, marching out there before dawn each morning for a nine-hour session with the targets, and this routine left long conversational openings in the middle of the working day. There were whole half-hours with nothing to do but sit around and wait for your turn on the firing line, and there was even more leisure during the noon meal, which was served in mess kits from a mobile field kitchen. Prentice made the most of those chances; it wasn't long before he and Quint were pairing off at each break, almost as a matter of course. Then when the company went out on bivouac they pitched their shelter halves together and shared the cramped, wet, two-man discomfort of a pup tent in which they both developed chest colds.By now they had grown as close as members of the same unhappy family, but Prentice knew they couldn't yet be accurately described as friends, let alone as "buddies.&quo...

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Yates, Richard
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Book Description: VINTAGE, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 198 x 129 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Bobby is eighteen and lost on the battlefields of Europe, stumbling his way through World War II. He has turned out to be the heroic soldier he imagined and his experience of battle principally involves fear and confusion. Back home, his mother Alice puts all her hopes in her son, and dreams of his return and starting a new life for them both. Richard Yates novel is both tender and ironic as he follows Bobby s adventures and disasters and reflects on the intense but complicated bond between mother and son. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099518631

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