I Don't Know But I've Been Told: A Novel

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9780060955694: I Don't Know But I've Been Told: A Novel

"I was a paratrooper in the 2nd 304 Scout Reconnaissance Platoon, 82nd Airborne Division. You don't know me without that. It's where I come from."

So begins Raul Correa's raw, mesmerizing tale of a peacetime soldier. To escape trouble at home, the young narrator enlists in the U.S. Army. Soon he's one of Fort Bragg's Recon Dogs, wild, scrappy, and jumping from airplanes -- after taking mescaline to heighten the experience. He is also discovering the power of stories told by bull-slinging buddies and Vietnam vets to give him a connection to the past, a place in the world, and a sense of self -- even when they're not true. But drawn to shady schemes and seedy bars, the narrator and the Recon Dogs get shipped to Panama, where something unexpected happens to give the soldier a heart-wrenching story of his own.

A cathartic free fall of a novel, I Don't Know But I've Been Told captures the cadences of real men talking to create a portrait of the military that is dead-on, funny, harsh, and true.

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Review:

U.S. Army paratroopers, armed with guns, drug habits, and a unique sense of patriotism, ramble on about their enlistment in I Don't Know but I've Been Told. First-time novelist Raul Correa gives us a nameless protagonist who wistfully recounts how decades earlier he was part of an invincible band of wild, peacetime soldiers, affectionately called "Recon Dogs." Bored with the routine of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Recon Dogs (with suspiciously little thought) take over the second job of their beloved "Platoon Daddy" providing "surplus" weapons to the friendly local arms smuggler--before a stint in Panama gives the narrator his first and only love, Paola. Back stateside, a night of drinking helps the narrator see logic in tossing a grenade under a car, summarily replacing his high-flying times with a prison sentence. Now working on tugboats in New York harbor, our hollow man reveres two talismans: Paola's only letter and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. The good times, for him, stopped long ago. Correa writes with all the macho swagger of his narrator's fun-loving, carefree past, turning in a memorable debut. --Michael Ferch

About the Author:

Raul Correa served as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division and received a B.A. and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. He lives in New York City.

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