I've been totally drawn into Far From the Madding Crowd, which is even beating out the AK 47 book. Mind you the AK 47 book is far too narrative-y for me. I just want dirt on how people get them, who sells them, and how and when knock-offs start getting produced, all that good, if dry stuff - and so far the book, which is decently well-written however much I complain, is just stories about people who had or loved or shot or invented AK 47s.
That having been said there was a good narrative about a north Vietnamese guy who was supposed to have shot down a B-52 with a Kalashnikov. That sort of thing in more depth would be nice to read about the Vietnam War - something from the perspective of the north Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, which whatever you think about the wherefores really did something amazing in historical terms; rather more amazing than what the US managed in the same conflict. Gender terms, too. All those women fighting. I'm not the only one that fascinated, of course. A while ago I saw this 1967 article from Time. "Sullen, sloe-eyed Victoria-Charlenes" - wow. The whole article reads like a justification for little old ladies or pretty young ones getting napalmed once in awhile. Fascinating.
But now I'm at the point of being sick of hearing about the conflict from an American perspective, be it yet another book or fucking pacificist-martial movie or hippie movie or Rambo movie or rant about the loss of America's innocence, like Cuba and the Philipines and all of that pre-World War II manifest destiny crap was just some sort of forgettable childish temper tantrum or whatever the fuck else. When I was a history student I was sometimes unhappy about how the perspective of the victor was so necessarily dominant in the records of past conflicts - I felt like I was missing big parts of the story - but in this case I'm starting to realize that the perspective of the loser really has its limits too, in terms of failing to be interesting rather than obsessively navel-gazing. On a human level, Americans were a tiny minority of the people who were fighting and getting horribly traumatized and slaughtered there, and on a political level the outcome turned out to not matter much for them - they lost and somehow their international empire kept ticking over. So really, how many Apocalypse Nows can I take seriously before getting to hear something from the perspective of the victor?
Well, I'll do some serious looking later - after the AK-47 book and after Far From the Madding Crowd, which is a monstrous big beast of a book, and will take a long time despite being compulsively readable and full of male passion. I think that's one of the things that makes me love Thomas Hardy - I think he had a remarkable talent for passionate male characters - George Eliot had a similar talent. I have the same sort of crush on Gabriel Oak that I've got on Adam Bede, and Farmer Boldwood is really unsettling as well.Both Hardy and Eliot also had a remarkable talent for imperfect women who manage to fuck everything up due to masculine traits in their personality, which hits home with me a bit. I haven't fucked everything up lately but I mustn't get too complacent.