Philip Caputo Joe Klein - Essay

Joe Klein

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Philip Caputo has written a celebrated memoir ("A Rumor of War") and a novel about the meaningless horror of modern war ("Horn of Africa"). He works the same territory again in his new novel, "DelCorso's Gallery."

Nicholas DelCorso, a Vietnam veteran turned combat photographer, wants to show the public the true face of war. It has become an obsession with him, an attempted expiation of a momentary sin of callousness, a crusade that seems inexplicable and tasteless to P. X. Dunlop, his former mentor. (pp. 14-15)

With bemused revulsion, he watches DelCorso photographing mangled corpses. Their rivalry, the emotional center of this book, reaches its climax in Beirut, a place so awful that even the professional action junkies, the war correspondents, have difficulty sustaining their macho existential pose….

Mr. Caputo writes with all the subtlety of a punch to the gut, but his descriptions of combat photographers and correspondents at work are right on the money. Like his hero, though, the author seems far more comfortable in ravaged Beirut than in the putatively civilized professional world of New York. His attempt to describe DelCorso's marriage to a cool Irish-American aristocrat isn't nearly so compelling as the battle sequences. Mr. Caputo remains very much a Marine—a bit awkward when it comes to domesticity and philosophizing but a tiger in the field. (p. 15)

Joe Klein, in a review of "DelCorso's Gallery," in The New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1983, pp. 14, 16.