Jim Barker’s Flapjacks and Fish Sauce: Asymmetrical Vietnam Humor (115 pp., $12.95, paper) is a compilation of stories from veterans who served in Vietnam during the war. In his introduction, Barker (at left in the photo) says of war: “Like a Texas tornado, conditions can be quickly brewed up that make ‘saints of sinners,’ and occasionally vice-versa. In this colosseum of intensity, the extraordinary, absurd, unusual and comic find fertile ground.”
The stories Baker has compiled prove his point. Some are outright funny. Some are of a gallows humor that makes one cringe.
One story tells of a man who lost his rifle in a rice paddy. He “fished around” for it, and thought he found it, only to come up with a severed arm.
The less gory tales can be laugh-out-loud funny. There’s the one about a guy on guard duty who felt something tapping on his shoulder. He thought it was his team leader trying to keep him awake. A little later his rear was firmly squeezed. He yelped and turned around to find he was being groped by an orangutan.
Jim Barker served in Vietnam in 1971-72 as an adviser and linguist with MACV in II Corps.
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