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My Psychic War with Uncle Sam (edition 2012)

by E. Alexander Scianna, Jean Campbell

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Member:matthilton
Title:My Psychic War with Uncle Sam
Authors:E. Alexander Scianna
Other authors:Jean Campbell
Info:Harmonious Circle Press (2012), Paperback, 330 pages
Collections:Your library
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My Psychic War with Uncle Sam by E. Alexander Scianna

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An interesting read. I'm still not sure if this is a pro-pot or anti-Vietnam war novel. This may be a case of too many fingers in the pie as the story moves along in a dis-jointed manner—almost as though multiple authors were dropping sections into the book without necessarily making sure that they fit the adjoining sections. Still, I did find it interesting in a curious sort of way and finished the book which says a lot for it. ( )
  Sturgeon | Dec 8, 2016 |
I may now be involved in the psychic war with Uncle Sam just by reading the book and thinking about it! This story is about a guy's experiences in the military during the Vietnam War and his experiences of paranoia and growing his "secret garden" today. I enjoyed getting into his head and reading his conversations with his buddy, Marcus. I'm not sure how well people who didn't experience the "Vietnam Era" will relate, but I sure did! So where can I enlist for this psychic war anyway?

I received it free from a librarything.com giveaway. ( )
  jwood652 | Oct 7, 2015 |
I may now be involved in the psychic war with Uncle Sam just by reading the book and thinking about it! This story is about a guy's experiences in the military during the Vietnam War and his experiences of paranoia and growing his "secret garden" today. I enjoyed getting into his head and reading his conversations with his buddy, Marcus. I'm not sure how well people who didn't experience the "Vietnam Era" will relate, but I sure did! So where can I enlist for this psychic war anyway?

I received it free from a librarything.com giveaway. ( )
  jwood652 | Oct 7, 2015 |
My Psychic War with Uncle Sam
E. Alexander Scianna & Jean Campbell, PhD
Harmonious Circle Press 2012

I've said it before but it bears saying again,

... a new artifact appears powered not by cultural norms but by personal passion. Often unregarded these noyeaux of information float like sleepy cows in cyberspace, freely available for the scholar or the curious - Looking for sweatless livelihood, a review of Chinese Education in Singapore by Zhang Zhxiong

If you want to know what it was like to be an alert but confused Los Angeles teenager in 1968 this is the book for you. Almost minute by minute you can watch the pot parties, the car rides and the brutal army life as the dude waits to go to Nam. A distinguished effort of retrieval. Everybody our age has those flowery, mazy, hazy times in their head o to be sweet and sixteen again, lying on the floor with Jane with undone hair and Sergeant Pepper! And then whoosh, you're greying and bugged about garden problems, radio on with too much information - what happened to your life - all the in between bits? This ebook is a look at that structure.

Only, our hero doesn't go to Nam; he works night duty in the cookhouse. And there is a teaser time puzzle. E. Alexander Scianna was born in 1957 it says on the the Meet the Authors page and yet in the introduction he states: my experiences as a draftee in 1968. I knew the Viet Cong used child soldiers but the idea of an eleven year old American private, I'm sorry, I don't accept. The introduction also states that this is a composite work, not only thru having two named authors, the other author is Jean Campbell PhD, but in ransacking the viewpoints of thinkers as diverse as Noam Chomsky and G.I. Gurdjieff and including paraphrased veteran testimony from the Vietnam war. As far as how the collaboration worked Scianna says, originally, I found this novel an exorcism of past ghosts, but with Jean’s genius and spontaneity of prose it began to take on its own life.

I'd honestly forgot what book I'd asked for. When My Psychic War with Uncle Sam popped into the inbox I remembered that I'd had problems with my own book, Robots, Reptiles & Rezistants wondering whether it was writers block or senility and ZAP! I'd spotted the Scianna/Campbell title on Library Thing, the book lovers site. Library Thing invites you to ask for books to review; part of their community building function. I was interested in the Scianna/Campbell title because it talked about bundling diverse sources, which was what I had been trying to do when I got stuck.

The set up is a middle aged marijuana grower looking back on his life thru paranoia tinged shades. The underground garden he refers to is both a real place with velcro fastened panels, fluorescent lights of different color temperatures and sterile cloning blocks and an imaginary space where he writes down his thoughts. After a flash into his childhood and drafting into the Army in 1968 we get a finely tracked, moment by moment sequence where our friend prints a subversive leaflet and is interrogated. We leave him waiting for his court martial confined to barracks and flash to the classic George Kennan quote from 1948. For those of you who don't know George Kennan was a really bright State department official who was at one point stationed in Moscow. From there he sent a devastating analysis of Soviet Union point of view and intentions. The quote begins - we have 50 per cent of the worlds wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population...

For Scianna/Campbell this quote sets up the thesis of the ruthless military industrial power clique - the reptile brained Cheney's and so on - who have broken America off its true, revolutionary, humankind liberating mission and are out to punish misbelievers. While the writer's marijuana plants are forced by his technological manipulation to disclose their sex he gives us the clue to what he is fighting - Christian Theocracy. And it may be the case that there are quite a few run and burn fundamentalist people of the cross behind the over successful US capitalism. Be surprising if not given the founding DNA. Mayflower? Goddamn will flower!

And now lets turn to the writing. By now the permanent present tense is beginning to tire me a little, it is too much like staring unblinking with no relief. I start to ask myself, where is the real world in all this? Which concrete objects does the writer choose to deal with and why? The army context - all those solid objects, trucks, gears, water spouts - what does it all add up to? I read on, patient, friendly, to see what happens but the problem becomes the writers handling of that strange incalculable: fictional time, fictional space.

One of the weirdest things about writing fiction is that the reader only knows what you tell her. The corollary of this is that if you put something in the reader is going to think it is there for a reason, and if there is too many words there without reason it gets tiring for the reader to do the sorting you should have done.

Example:
I’m here to see the captain.” I present myself to the young private behind a big desk.
“Just a minute.” The private goes into the back room.
“Okay, you can go in and see the captain,” he says returning to the desk.

Do I really need to know that it is a big desk, do I really have to watch the private toddle backwards and forwards? You have to cut all slackness right to the bone. "Kill your children" said Rider Haggard - any phrase you think specially fine, out it goes. Like Stephen King says in his classic memoir On Writing "cutting is the literary equivalent of Viagra" He recommends your second draft is ten per cent less than your first.

I’m here to see the captain.” I tell the private on desk duty.
“Just a minute.” He disappears for a moment. I stare at the desk.
“Okay, you can go in,”

Hard to get a grip on the concept of fictional time, fictional space; that is why writing this review helps me. To say we dig a hole deep enough to stand in doesn't register unless it has a relation (is in a properly imagined proportion with) other physical descriptions. The language skin here is only ever one word deep, it lacks inner resonance. You may think I'm being hard, well why not? - I'm trying to figure out this stuff for the sake of my own writing.

Example: We zap from his brother over dosing fatally on the floor to breakfast with Dad and Mom the next day - all in the same tone, no change of pace. Good writers of the old fashioned sort pop in a descriptive phrase with just the right length tone, rhythm, perspective to give the piece some architecture within which the reader can be present in a comfortable way. Perhaps I've got it all wrong, I'd love to know what present day eighteen year olds make of My Psychic war with Uncle Sam.

Back to the book. We are on the move again, that lovely, careless, big space American traveling in the desert with the older head, Tom, who speaks in theosophic riddles. In the middle of their acid trip a curious thing happens, Marcel the buddy of the hero discloses that his mother was a German Jewess escaped from France and his father, captured by the Spanish trying to escape over the Pyrenees committed suicide. Any half literate person will recognize that we have here smuggled in the story of Walter Benjamin, no?

(Walter Benjamin who wrote amongst many other great things that history is always history of the victorious tk has become a cult figure for many marginal intellectuals, they like to think he holds out hope for obscurity, beside the fact that his interests and analyses were so fascinating. To fantasize about being his secret child is pretty powerful stuff to smuggle in, no?)

We come up to the surface into the present and the narrator, now in middle age, steals a knife and is locked into a mental health facility. Nibbles, pool table, music - and freewheeling conversations about America. A chilling picture of the super modern sinister guardian/nurse figures we are all going to struggle with, with I work for X stamped across their eyeballs and their pre-cut dialogue filled with registered affective vocabulary to make you come gently: valence (the pleasantness of the stimulus), arousal (the intensity of emotion provoked by the stimulus), and dominance (the degree of control exerted by the stimulus).

Freewheeling? It is the uninterrupted conversation about America's problem with the use of its power, a bastard baby born with a gun in one hand and a bible with the other. What does D.H. Lawrence say somewhere? The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. Why say somewhere? Its in his 1923 discussion of Hawthorn in Studies in Classic American Literature ISBN 014003009.

Thanks Scianna/Campbell - you made me think and got me writing again. ( )
1 vote matthilton | Jun 17, 2015 |
My Psychic War with Uncle Sam (Kindle Edition)
An interesting look back into the Vietnam and Hippie era of the 60's and 70's. I lived through that period
and this book brought back a few memories ..some bittersweet. A time of confusion and uncertainty for so many...
at the same time a period ushering in changes in society that have NOT been for the best. So..I was a little uneasy
when reading the book although it will give a glimpse into this recent period of history.

Do I recommend this..Hesitantly..yes
The reader will be the final judge. ( )
  KindlyCat | Mar 8, 2015 |
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Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities -- Voltaire
Fear is the destructive energy in man. It withers the mind, it distorts thought, it leads to all kinds of extraordinarily clever and subtle theories, absurd superstitions, dogmas, and beliefs -- J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
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I wake, roll over, and look at the clock.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0961054425, Paperback)

My Psychic War with Uncle Sam is a journey of thought and reminisce that transports the reader from the horrors of 9-11 to a young man's experiences in the army during the Vietnam era. For more info: http://www.theharmoniouscirclepress.net

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:16 -0400)

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Harmonious Circle Press

2 editions of this book were published by Harmonious Circle Press.

Editions: 0961054425, 0961054433

 

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