Fight Like a Man: A Short Story
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Seldom created to address an outside culture, a tale is a medium through which a culture speaks to itself and thus perpetuates its own values and stabilizes its own identity.
The old speak to the young through tales. The sketch, by contrast, is intercultural, depicting some phenomenon of one culture for the benefit or pleasure of a second culture. Factual and journalistic, in essence the sketch is generally more analytic or descriptive and less narrative or dramatic than the tale. Moreover, the sketch by nature is suggestive , incomplete; the tale is often hyperbolic , overstated. The primary mode of the sketch is written; that of the tale, spoken. This difference alone accounts for their strikingly different effects.
The sketch writer can have, or pretend to have, his eye on his subject. The tale, recounted at court or campfire—or at some place similarly removed in time from the event—is nearly always a re-creation of the past. The sketch writer is more an agent of space , bringing an aspect of one culture to the attention of a second. It is only a slight oversimplification to suggest that the tale was the only kind of short fiction until the 16th century, when a rising middle class interest in social realism on the one hand and in exotic lands on the other put a premium on sketches of subcultures and foreign regions.
Each writer worked in his own way, but the general effect was to mitigate some of the fantasy and stultifying conventionality of the tale and, at the same time, to liberate the sketch from its bondage to strict factuality. The modern short story, then, ranges between the highly imaginative tale and the photographic sketch and in some ways draws on both. The short stories of Ernest Hemingway , for example, may often gain their force from an exploitation of traditional mythic symbols water, fish, groin wounds , but they are more closely related to the sketch than to the tale.
Indeed, Hemingway was able at times to submit his apparently factual stories as newspaper copy.
Faulkner seldom seems to understate, and his stories carry a heavy flavour of the past. Both his language and his subject matter are rich in traditional material. A Southerner might well suspect that only a reader steeped in sympathetic knowledge of the traditional South could fully understand Faulkner. Faulkner may seem, at times, to be a Southerner speaking to and for Southerners. Whether or not one sees the modern short story as a fusion of sketch and tale, it is hardly disputable that today the short story is a distinct and autonomous , though still developing, genre.
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Short story. Article Media. The grunts who did the killing called it Flushing the Rabbits. The sweep and block was the most effective tactical maneuver in the open rice paddies and string-like ridgelines of western Quang Nam Province. A rifle platoon of 40 Marines could pull off a sweep and block. So could a rifle company three times that size, or a battalion of four rifle companies, or in some cases, multiple battalions.
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During one recent sweep and block, three battalions of Marines had trapped a North Vietnamese Army force several times their size, like the proverbial dog that caught the fire truck. Instead of taking up a morning, the two sides had chased and ambushed each other through the villages and ridges, fighting for eight days.
Now they were on the move again. The moon shone above them in the wide and empty sky, reflecting mirror-like in the rain-drenched paddies. They had broken their perimeter at the edge of a village called Phu Phong 4 in the middle of the night, taking down the tent-like poncho hootches, packing up loose tins of C-ration meals and pulling in the trip flares and claymore mines they had placed in front of their fighting holes, counting the grenades and popups that had lain in the parapets, all of this to make sure nothing was left behind for the enemy.
Now, hours later, they glided single-file, Indian style, along a packed, mud-slick paddy dike, 10 meters between each man even in the darkness, the column of a hundred heavily laden Marines stretching back for a mile inside the tree line from whence they had just emerged. They crossed a wide rice paddy, as empty and silent as the moon itself. If this were a movie, they would have filled the screen with an unspoken majesty, their silhouettes cast against the faintly glowing sky.
Short Stories (Bookshelf) - Gutenberg
But on the paddy dike, they struggled and cursed and moaned, anonymous and forgotten, fighting a nervous exhaustion. Close-up they seemed more camel-like than kingly. Each head was similarly rounded by a steel helmet. Their boots squished in the mud. Sawgrass scratched their legs. Shoulder-fired rockets, claymore mines and bandoliers of ammunition clonked against them, matching the loose rhythm of their footsteps. They carried their M rifles with a familiar ease. Their cartridge belts and flak jacket pockets were heavy with canteens of water, pop-up flares and hand grenades.
They were heading east, toward the coming dawn. Soon they would be flushing rabbits from the village of Phu Binh 3. The rice paddy ended at the outer edge of the village. A raised dirt trail made a perimeter around the hamlet.
Just inside the trail, moat-like, was a deep ditch that channeled a murky stream. An old concrete well built by the French many years before marked the intersection with another trail. They turned onto the other trail, crossing a footbridge over the ditch, and then stepped just inside the village. At the edge of the village the rice fields smelled of ash from a charred streak left by a recent napalm strike.
New odors surrounded them as they entered Phu Binh 3.
The musk and flowers gave way to wet ash from doused cook fires, powdery manioc fields, and the stench of waterbull pens. A rooster crowed. Dogs yapped at them from nearby thatch porches.
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A waterbull strained against its nose-hooked leash inside its pen, having been trained by the Viet Cong from birth to shriek and stir at the odor of the gun oil used on American rifles. Leaves hung heavy on the trails, lightly touching their necks and faces. Off to their right the village was pitch-black, its inhabitants huddled inside the earthen family bunkers where they spent each night in order to avoid the war. During daylight patrols frail women who had grown old too early would squat on the mud porches, staring quietly as they passed, their faces frozen and unmoving but their eyes electric, missing nothing.
The young men were gone, either dead or hiding or camped with the enemy in the mountains.
And in the darkness there was nothing except the roosters crowing and the dogs yapping and the waterbulls, shrieking and stirring. It happened quickly. The lead platoon silently broke away from their column and set up behind a rise in the earth on the eastern side of the village. Just before dawn, a firefight erupted a thousand meters to their north.
They immediately knew that a sister rifle company had trapped an enemy unit in the hamlet of Phu Binh 1. Their faces grew taut.
They checked and rechecked their weapons. They crouched behind the high paddy dike as the firefight to their north ebbed and flowed. Rifle and machine-gun fire snapped and crackled through the quiet air, red and green tracers careening and intersecting above them in the bluing sky. Dawn was breaking. Inside Phu Binh 3 more dogs barked and the roosters crowed. The surprised enemy soldiers began to crawl from the bunkers and move toward the speed trails.
In moments they poured out of the village in groups of four and five, dozens of them running westward, heading for the mountains but instead moving directly toward the blocking force. On the right flank at the southern edge of the blocking formation, the Marine machine guns opened up, their tracers forming red curtains of steel in front of the fleeing soldiers.