- Narrated by: Colin Hanks
- Length: 2 hrs and 10 mins
- Unabridged Audiobook
- Release date: 19-06-12
- Language: English
- Publisher: Audible Studios
Basic Training is a bitter, profoundly disenchanted story that satirizes the military, authoritarianism, gender relationships, parenthood, and most of the assumed mid-century myths of the family. Haley Brandon, the adolescent protagonist, comes to the farm of his relative, the old crazy who insists upon being called The General, to learn to be a straight-shooting American. Haley’s only means of survival will lead him to unflagging defiance of the General’s deranged (but oh so American, oh so military) values. This story and its thirtyish author were no friends of the milieu to which the slick magazines’ advertisers were pitching their products.
Another unexpected writer’s influence underlies this story: J.D. Salinger. Throughout the ’40s and before his move to New York, Salinger had produced short stories whose confused or slightly deranged young protagonists (most of them around the age of Haley Brandon) stumbled through pre- and postwar Manhattan and military service, experiencing mild disaffection, alienation, and then terrible anger. All of them came to learn that the people who ran the show were as crazy and dangerous as those nominally on the other side. Shortly after these semi-whimsical social portraits were published, Salinger, like Vonnegut, was drafted, shipped into combat and involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
In this audio edition, performed for the first time by Colin Hanks (Band of Brothers, Orange County), exist not only Vonnegut’s influences and what later became his voice but Vonnegut’s grand themes: trust no one, trust nothing; the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Darwin8u on 30-06-12
A Quaint Vonnegut Bildungsroman
A previously unpublished novella by Vonnegut. Basic Training is not nearly as absurdist or fanciful as his later novels. The plot/setting/characters are all structurally congruous and reasonable. Basic Training is basically a quaint bildungsroman that deals with issues of love, authoritarianism, family and heroism. It reminded me a lot of J.D. Salinger's and Carson McCuller's novellas, and wouldn't feel too overshadowed by those authors or out of place in the pages of Harpers, the New Yorker, or the Saturday Evening Post of the 1940s and 1950s.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
By Barry on 04-08-12
Short Coming of Age Slice of Life
What did you love best about Basic Training?
My first Vonnegut. Slow start but well worth the patience. The characters in ensemble are clearly drawn with each one showing growth and clear change.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Basic Training?
I was quite moved in the final scene, when the General shows his strength of character by admitting his need for change of heart and expresses clearly with great difficulty that this indeed has happened. Then he is able to speak directly to his family with emotion no longer a threat to his authority, speaking of love with a balance of discipline.
What about Colin Hanks’s performance did you like?
Colin Hanks presented the characters clearly and consistently. He did a fine job.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I listened with interest as long as I could before breaking off for other required activities
Any additional comments?
It was a slow starting book for me, but I'm glad I hung in there rather than giving up. It was a great experience and I needed to learn not to quit too soon.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful