Sunday, February 05, 2006
Scars of the Square Needle
Dick Boucher is a Franco-American who gets himself caught in an alienating Navy venture as he tries to save himself being drafted for the army against Vietnam. What follows is enigmatic, humorous, satirical, and adventurous in Pierre R. Beaumier’s ‘Scars of the Square Needle' (Outskirts Press, Denver, 2005).
Beaumier’s anti-war fiction, a roman a clef, is hard to classify as a novel (who insists?) or a short story (there are over 200 pages). So that leaves one with a ‘protracted story’. Boucher’s character typifies the alienation of an army consign who once had a relationship with art. As the war ends, Boucher finds himself across invisible bars, parting him from the purity of peace. The plot is intelligently woven, though a little more intricately.
Humor tops the attractions of this story (should I?). Use of alliteration is frequent and it reinforces the effect: ‘big belly bobbing up and down’, ‘a beaky pinkish nose rose from…’ Beaumier’s fast tempo of narration baffles at times. You know it’s based on a first-hand account of Vietnam War, so you are looking for a strong personal voice. But that is lacking and you get instead a diffuse hum of many voices. Characters keep busting in and there are a few women on the scene popping up from nowhere to console the shivering Boucher after his nightmares. Most of these disappear brusquely.
Beaumier is likely to attract a large male audience, guys who love to hear about guns and rough language of the military. The actions scenes are thrilling; life runs far from a bed of roses, no matter how much the protagonist hankers after it. What’s precious about the end is that knowing the real scars of Boucher’s life proves far easier than all the babble about the ‘Square Needle’.