the writing is so unbelievable! the writer creates astounding metaphors from the most unusual subjects.
Madness and war, the subjects of George Mandel's third novel, have been the most durable literary themes of the last two decades. This is probably not because the period has seen the spilling of more blood and sanity than others, but because it seems more than others to be the era of the average man, who obsesses authors with the similarities of his predicament rather than the individuality of his struggle. Many novelists nowadays tend to upend art to write about predicaments instead of people, but war novels and madhouse novels survive even this treatment. No matter how pale are a novelist's people, shot, shell and psychosis will set them off in a fascinating dance that closely resembles life. below marx
Pushed from Behind. Mandel writes in this upended fashion. He tells of the mental disintegration of a U.S. mechanized cavalry troop fighting in Germany in 1944, and his soldiers are only a shade more than interchangeable war novel parts. But he describes the branching filaments of their decay with subtle force, and states clearly a proposition that most battle novels fudge: in the insane world of mud, blood and constant gunfire, the normal condition of a combat soldier must be something close to insanity. timmee
A Troop has been fighting for four months, pushed from behind by a hearty, pistol-packing captain whose notion of boldness is to commit his men without sufficient support. So far, casualties have been light. But good luck has been strained to the breaking point. So have the men of A Troop's second platoon.
Tough, able Sergeant Riglioni, himself only fitfully rational, blurredly watches the breakup. It takes the form of a mania for light. At night, huddled sleeplessly in bomb-crushed cellars, the men crave candles. They try scraping wax from ration boxes, but the lights they make burn only for seconds. Then a replacement shows up, squeamish in combat but eerily skillful at finding large quantities of wax. He guards his secret, but the obsessed men find it out: the wax comes from holy figures in household shrines and churches.Rich Symbolism. The men make candles. With the abundant light comes madness—or perhaps, indeed, the aberration is sanity. They will not fight. Riglioni refuses to lead them. The colonel's aide tries to pry them from their cellar refuge and finds himself looking down the barrel of a Thompson gun. The blowhard captain arrives, sermonizes plaintively at the figures crouched around the huge, 9-ft. candles, and is told to take his precious behind back to headquarters. He leaves. The Germans counterattack. The men are killed.
Mandel handles the deadly light with only a minimum of the writing-class prose that is standard in novels of this kind. The rich symbolism of the search for wax never becomes cant, even when the soldiers learn that the wax comes from melted saints. The Wax Boom is a commendable book, and, if predicament-describing were the main task of a novelist, it would be an excellent one. auburn