Hues of Green: A Critical History of D.M. Thompson’s Colors of War & Peace (223 pp. $17.95, paper; $.99, Kindle) is a companion work to Thompson’s marvelous short-story collection of the Vietnam War and its aftermath in memory. Edgar “Buzz” Tiffany is the author of Audie Murphy in Saigon, a literary collection of fiction and nonfiction stories, and served alongside Thompson in the 11th Special Forces Group in the late seventies.
It is by no means necessary to read this book in order to enjoy Thompson’s collection. But I suggest reading Thompson’s short stories before opening this one. Then you may want to read Hues of Green—along with a second and third reading of Thompson’s stories. Both books are that good.
This work of literary criticism looks at the eight short stories in Thompson’s collection, digging deep to explain many references, to provide background to many incidents, and to compare Thompson and other literary storytellers.
In discussing the introductory story, “Blue Tattoo,” for example, Tiffany notes that the collection follows a pattern established by Jack Kerouac in On the Road and Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. “The stage in this tale,” Tiffany writes, “is the pugil pit where the themes of military indoctrination, domination, submission, and victory are reenacted over and over.”
“Walking Point with Sergeant Rock,” Tiffany writes, is “a journal of hell in a shithole,” told by using several forms of humor. Despite the levity, though, the story is “a serious portrait of the limit’s of man’s fortitude in combat.”
“In Boxcar Orange” Tiffany points out how the plane passengers surrounding the narrator make up a Greek chorus, accompanying his stream of consciousness as he goes “back and forth in military memory.” He goes on to say that Thompson “has managed to invoke history, literature, music, philosophy, religion and finally, art, in support of his major goal—to show the indelible imprint war has on the mind and memory of the young who go to war, even when those young are the most dedicated and capable of all.”
Tiffany is at his most helpful discussing “Challenging Disaster,” in which he points out the seven different circles, orbits, and ovals that revolve around the story and that the story revolves around. Fascinating stuff.
Tiffany’s book will give you a better idea of how to enjoy Thompson’s short story collection, and also provides a broader lesson on how to best read similar literary works to gain the greatest possible understanding and enjoyment from them.