Saturday, September 24, 2016
Good Morning, Vietnam - Hollywood and The Sympathizer
Viet Tranh Nguyen's novel The Sympathizer does begin to get into the politics - the new VC government in Saigon concerned about an America/CIA-backed invasion or counter-revolution, as far-fetched as that seems to day and certainly completely out of touch w/ what was going on in the U.S. at that time, and the elderly Vietnam exiles fecklessly plotting a return to glory. If the narrator was a half-way decent spy he would have communicated to his handlers that Americans were entirely sick of Vietnam and in no way would ever get sucked into that quagmire again, but I guess that's the very point - he's not a good spy, he's a terrible spy who can't seem to do the right thing of convey accurate information. He keeps getting sidetracked into weird projects, and at the 1/3 point where I am, approximately, he's asked to read a screenplay about life in Vietnam, called The Hamlet (yes, we get the reference to a prince who can't make up his mind), which he finds - correctly, I'm sure - completely condescending to the Vietnamese people - and he tells the big-shot director so, in a pretty funny scene of clashing Hollywood egos. The director, however (not sure if he's based on anyone? FF Coppola maybe?), licks his wounds and ends up hiring the narrator as a consultant during six months of shooting in the Philippines, so off he goes - as the narrative veers onto another course. This story is rich with incident and with humor and w/ some startling strong passages; it's beset, though, by a complex story line, which I hope will cohere as the narrative progresses.