The Bookshelf: Assembled Thoughts on Child’s Night Dream

15 04 2008

In general it was better than the German translation, but here and there I’ve got lost, as I’d got often lost in Hemingway or Conrad or Joyce, moments when after reading a page I had to stop wondering what actually is going on. It is a wild text, sometimes overdone, but at least it shows how well read young Stone was. To imitate (no matter well or poorly) other writers you have first to read them. It’s amazing what that 19 years old had in his mind.

It’s a pity I cannot read the original text, that one which landed in the East river in 1967, because just like with Platoon, I’d like to know the original ideas and know which details were added while OS was reworking the manuscript later. Because the text contains some strange coincidences:

The book was written originally before he went to war, and parts that deal with it are written in form of a future fantasy. The protagonist says, he started smoking in the army. And I know OS said in some interview that he indeed started smoking on his way to Vietnam.

In his fantasy he is in a unit near “Pleiku, 25th Infantry country”. Pleiku is a city in the north of South Vietnam. It was indeed a headquarter of 25th Infantry Division, and initially I thought the movie took place somewhere in the Pleiku area.

When the protagonist was a little boy, one of his vestiges didn’t come down and was surgically removed. Later he told everybody it was a war injury. Made me think of Chris after the final battle.

One of his fictional buddies was “Crazybush, (…) a half crazy Indian who sent his old lady all his money for Christmas before she ran away with the biker next door…” Definitely reminds me of Elias’ biography from the book and script.

A part of a dialogue: “They’ll be coming up the middle. Try to split both platoons, get us in a crossfire.” 

I immediately thought of Elias’ line from the movie: “Dinks get men in these holes, they got us caught in the crossfire.”

An old friend from the school named Alexander is mentioned. The name appears in Break.

In one of those what-the-hell-is-going-on moments in the story (it’s a battle scene but it gets lost in OS’s verbosity) he inserts a little sentence: “Standing now holding my head with pain. Above the left eye, inserting its knifepoint, working down the perimeter of my cheek, into my witching mouth muscles.”

Sounds somehow similar to the description of Barnes from the script: “The distortion from the jaw up the left side of his face to his forehead, punctuated by a severe indentation above the left eye where a bullet once penetrated his skull.” 

From an after-battle scene: “There must be hundreds of them lying at our feet. Little yellow men in green uniforms, swimming without motion.” Great description of the scene before Chris kills Barnes, isn’t it?

In one of the book’s the future fantasies, the protagonist has a daughter named Tara. His real daughter was born around the same time he was rewriting the novel. Her name is Tara. The ficitional daughter “loved that passage from Ecclesiastes, which went “rejoice in thy youth… and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes. Knowing that in all these things God will bring thee into judgment”. Well, well, well, here we have the full quotation from Ecclesiastes he used for the movie.

He also taught her a prayer “which I taught myself in a moment of trying to relieve my suffering, and which began: O, Lord, surprise me“. Nice.

“God holds out for us to see but goes unseen? Ask Ahab.” Hmmmm…

A sentence which could be very much written by myself: “I am not able nor willing to differentiate between people, for they are all the same to me, creatures to be met, interrogated and left behind. I am a lodestone without polarity, the mathematician who has reasoned out the odds and decided against. There is a forever hopeless resignation in my attitude of arriving alone, of leaving alone. And God, I swear there are times, there are times it’s as if I were literally starving. A want of something in my life. The things which make the world go round…”


Well, there are 4 possibilities:

1. Stone changed things while rewriting the novel, so they matched his life;

2. he’d foreseen some things, and his life was full of deja vu-s from his stories (I had one, it’s a little scary to find yourself in a situation you wrote for someone else);

3. he tried actually to live his story.

The first is the most natural thing, but somehow I can easily imagine the third. 🙂 The more I know about the guy the more I’m convinced he was a real weirdo as a young man. Damn well read one. It’s clearly visible that he was trying to write like Conrad, Hemingway, Joyce… Being a weirdo myself it only makes me more sympathetic to me.

Oh, yes, there is a fourth option: he is playing with his audience. It’s something that I myself intended to do with my never-to-be written pieces. I’ve always had a weird feeling that Platoon is a kind of a methaphysical riddle for me to figure out. I still have that feeling, so probably I haven’t solved the riddle yet. 😀


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