Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

As Ronald Glasser notes in his foreword to 365 Days, he arrived at Camp Zama, in Japan, in September of 1968. Educated at The Johns Hopkins University, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in 1961, and at The Johns Hopkins Medical School, where he completed his M.D. degree in 1965, he undertook three years of specialized training in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School. With that background, he had expected to be treating the dependent children of those soldiers stationed in Japan. What he encountered, however, was the horror of war, for Camp Zama, with its seven-hundred-bed hospital, served as a United States Army evacuation center for soldiers needing more extensive care than was available in Vietnam. As he remarks, Zama is the only general hospital in Japan; Glasser is proud of having served in this large, modern, and efficient facility, where “literally thousands of boys were saved” during his two-year assignment in the army.

Glasser is also clearly proud of the soldiers he comes to know at Zama. Although these young soldiers are no more than “boys,” they are brave and stoic and honest. They are also confused; as the soldier’s poem which serves as the epigraph for the first story says, “Even those who make it home/ Carry back a scar.” From knowing these soldiers, Glasser feels the obligation “to give something to these kids that was all theirs without doctrine or polemics, something they could use to explain what they might not be able to explain themselves.” Because Glasser believes that “there is no novel in Nam, there is not enough for a plot,” what he offers instead are “sketches, not finished stories.” Yet here, as elsewhere, he understates his point, for the seventeen sketches contained in 365 Days are built on a carefully interconnected series of motifs. Reminiscent in pattern of James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914), the book also reminds one of the work of Stephen Crane, to whose memory the book is dedicated.

Of the seventeen essays, eight of them focus on the soldiers’ lives in Vietnam, and one examines the training of a young officer before he departs the United States. Ranging in length from two to fifteen pages, the essays depict moments of crisis for the soldiers. In “Mayfield,” for example, the central character...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

FitzGerald, Frances. “A Reporter at Large: A Disagreement in Baileyville,” in The New Yorker. LX (January 16, 1984), pp. 47-90.

Lask, Thomas. “Vietnam: Children’s Crusade,” in The New York Times Book Review. LXXVI (September 11, 1971), p. 25.

Polner, Murray. Review in Saturday Review. LIV (September 11, 1971), pp. 46-47.

Prescott, Peter S. “The ‘Dignity’ of Battle,” in Newsweek. LXXVIII (September 13, 1971), p. 99.

Simpson, Louis. “Nothing to Show But Their Wounds,” in The Listener. LXXXVII (June 1, 1972), pp. 735-736.