Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Submarine Book As Monotonous As Submarine Life

Snapshot from my middle school days: A couple other boys and I are sitting around a table in the Kekionga Middle School library. The other boys are testing my speed reading ability. They decide to time how long it takes me to read two pages of my current book. They are duly impressed.

Snapshot from a couple months ago: I remember that scene at Kekionga, and I remember the book I was reading—Run Silent, Run Deep. But I don’t remember the story line, only that it was about a military submarine. Looking for a different kind of novel, I decide to read it again.
*****
Written by Capt. Edward L. Beach of the U.S. Navy, Run Silent, Run Deep, copyright 1955, tells the tale of a U.S. submarine skipper during the last half of WWII, from shortly before Pearl Harbor on.

I have no plans to read this a third time. The story is somewhat interesting, but the author takes too long (364 pages) to tell it. The conflicts in the story occur between Commander Richardson and Bungo Pete, a Japanese boat skipper who is notorious for his success in sinking U.S. subs, and between Commander Richardson and his second-in-command, Jim, who nurses a grudge against Richardson for pulling the plug on Jim’s chance for promotion. Throw in a love triangle between Richardson, Jim, and Laura, and you’ve got the potential for a good story. But ...

The story bogs down in the details of submarine maneuvers. To his credit, the author continues to shorten up such descriptions as the novel progresses, but by then he’s already torpedoed interest. There came a point about halfway through where I considered whether to quit or continue.

The other weak element of the story is the love triangle. The reader gets the impression at the beginning of the story that the Laura aspect of the story is going to play a big role throughout. It doesn’t.

Unique is a beautiful, almost poetic, passage towards the end of the book that honors the sacrifice of all soldiers in wartime (quoted at the end of this post).

Apparently, my opinion of the book isn’t everyone’s. It was made into a movie starring Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, and Don Rickles (his first movie appearance). If the library has it, I plan to watch it.

First line: “My name is Edward G. Richardson and I am a Commander in the Navy, skipper of the submarine Eel.”

Last line: “For once there’ll be plenty of time for everything.”

My rating (out of 5): 2

*****
Inspiring passage from Run Silent, Run Deep
Captain Blunt, informing Commander Richardson that another sub was lost:
“There are some parts of that ocean out near Japan which are worth more than any material value can ever express. They are parts which are consecrated, for they are hallowed by our heroic dead. One day God, in His infinite wisdom, may let us see the reason why some men must die young that others may live to a useless old age—why men like me, who have never heard a shot or seen a torpedo fired in anger, must be the arbiter of life and death for younger and better men….

“Every grave on land and in that ocean is a tomb to an ideal. Some of the ideals are wrong, some right. But the graves are never wrong—they are monuments to the heroic men of either side who sleep there. For who has the right to say to the men who bear the brunt of the battle, ‘This was wrong, this was worthless to die for?’ Is not the warrior the purest and most heroic of all, because he dies for his beliefs? It is the men who send the warriors on their quests who must answer to that question.”
(308)

1 comment:

j.scantlin said...

Two things I really enjoyed about this post: the passage you quote at the end, and this gem: "The story bogs down in the details of submarine maneuvers. To his credit, the author continues to shorten up such descriptions as the novel progresses, but by then he’s already torpedoed interest."

Maybe it's lowbrow, but I also recently enjoyed hearing a local sportscaster recently proclaim that the Fort Wayne TinCaps "loosened the Lansing Lugnuts..."